Palestinians clash with police as Jews try to access Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

Northeast exposure of Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, in the Old City of Jerusalem. © Wikipedia
Clashes have broken out between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Sunday. At least seven Palestinians were injured after being hit by rubber bullets, while police said they arrested four Palestinian youths.

The disturbances started after Israeli police opened a gate to the compound, which is used by tourists and Jews to enter the site, the director of the mosque Sheikh Omar Kiswani told the Anadolu Agency. 

He said it was “unprecedented” that such an event could occur in the last 10 days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. 

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld denied reports that non-Muslims had been banned from entering the complex during the last 10 days of the religious holiday. 

Muslims particularly revere the final 10 days of Ramadan, when they increase the number of times they visit the mosque for prayers. 

Rosenfeld added that four Palestinian youths had been arrested for disrupting the passage of non-Muslims to the site. He said he wasn’t aware of police officers using any force against Palestinians. 

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, in East Jerusalem, is seen as the third most sacred site in Islam. The area has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Muslims don’t want Jews to pray in the vicinity of their place of worship, which Jews refer to as Table Mount. 

Earlier this year, Israeli troops reportedly escorted Israeli settlers to the holy site on numerous occasions during Passover week. Two groups of around 50 Jewish men were said to have shouted racist and provocative slogans and attempted to pray, although it is forbidden for Jews to do so at the site. 

“Israel Police escorted roughly 1,050 people to the Temple Mount, including 885 tourists and over 100 Israelis, and during the visit 13 were removed from the area for not behaving according to the security measures that were implemented,” Rosenfeld said, as cited by the Jerusalem Post in April. 

This incident came weeks after UNESCO – the UN’s cultural arm – said the Temple Mount site, on which the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated, is “an integral part of Palestine.” The organization also criticized Israel, “the occupying power,” for planting fake graves in Muslim cemeteries. 

UNESECO “strongly condemns the Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif, and requests Israel, the Occupying Power, to respect the historic Status Quo and to immediately stop these measures,” a statement read. 

The Al-Aqsa Mosque also became a flash point between Israelis and Palestinians in 2015, caused in part by an Israeli decision to limit entry to the holy site to men over the age of 50.