Palestinians clash with Israeli police at Jerusalem holy site, 152 injured

  • Hundreds of Palestinians detained – Israeli government
  • Israel on high alert after recent deadly attacks on Arab streets
  • Clashes in Jerusalem pose risk of relapse into wider conflict
  • Jordan condemns police entry into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

JERUSALEM, April 15 (Reuters) – At least 152 Palestinians were injured on Friday in clashes with Israeli riot police inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, the latest outbreak in a recent outbreak of violence that has raised fears of a return to wider conflict. .

Most of the Palestinian injuries were caused by rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings with police batons, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said at the most sensitive site in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. generations.

Israeli security forces are on high alert after a series of deadly Arab street attacks across the country in the past two weeks. Clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City pose the risk of a relapse into a wider conflagration like last year’s Gaza war.

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The Al-Aqsa compound sits atop the plateau of East Jerusalem’s Old City, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, and is known to Muslims as al -Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, and of the Jews under the name of Temple. To go up.

This year, tensions have been heightened in part by Ramadan coinciding with the Jewish observance of Passover.

In a statement, Israeli police said hundreds of Palestinians threw firecrackers and stones at their forces and at the nearby Jewish prayer area of ​​the Western Wall in the Old City after Ramadan morning prayers.

He said the police then entered the Al-Aqsa compound to “disperse and repel (the crowd and) allow the rest of the worshipers to leave the premises safely”. adding that three officers were injured in the clashes.

Police arrested hundreds of Palestinians, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a tweet.

“We are working to restore calm, on the Temple Mount and across Israel. At the same time, we are preparing for any scenario and the security forces are ready for any task,” Bennett said.

Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have stepped up mediation between Palestinian factions – led by the Islamist group Hamas, which rules Gaza – and Israel in a bid to prevent a further escalation of violence, a Palestinian official said at Reuters.

Hamas demanded that Israel release nearly 500 people it detained on Friday, end ‘provocative visits’ by Jewish groups to Al-Aqsa Mosque and end military incursions into cities of the West Bank.

In a sign of easing tensions, Israel released all but 100 of those detained, the Palestinians said.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry, referring to the violence in the holy compound, said it “holds Israel fully and directly responsible for this crime and its consequences”.

“FLAGRAN VIOLATION”

The international community must intervene immediately to “stop the Israeli aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and prevent things from spiraling out of control”, said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who governs the autonomous areas of Al-Aqsa. the Israeli-occupied West Bank. .

Jordan, whose Hashemite monarchy is the guardian of Muslim and Christian shrines in East Jerusalem, condemned the Israeli police raid on the compound as “a flagrant violation”.

Israel recognized the Hashemite role as guardian of Al-Aqsa under the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries and maintains overall security control over the site.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said tensions should be eased. “We call on all parties to exercise restraint, avoid provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” he said in a statement.

Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special envoy for peace in the Middle East, urged all parties “to help calm the situation, avoid spreading inflammatory rhetoric and expose those who seek to aggravate the situation”.

Last year there were nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police during the month of Muslim fasting. Threats to displace Palestinians in East Jerusalem and police raids in Al-Aqsa helped spark an 11-day Israel-Gaza war that killed more than 250 Palestinians in Gaza and 13 people in Israel.

Since last month, Israeli forces have killed 29 Palestinians in raids in the West Bank after Palestinian assailants killed 14 Israelis in a series of attacks in Israeli towns.

Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam and also revered by Jews as the location of two ancient temples.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal capital. The Palestinians seek to make East Jerusalem, including its Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites, the capital of a future state.

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Reporting by Sinan Abu Mayzer, Ammar Awad and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Henriette Chacar in Jaffa; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Sandra Maler

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