Clashes between Palestinians, Israelis mar jubilant return to holy site after weeks of protests over metal detectors
At least 127 Palestinians were injured in clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian worshippers returning to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday, healthcare workers said Thursday evening.
The injured including 41 injured by rubber bullets, 86 suffering from tear gas inhalation, and at least 15 fractures, the Palestinian Red Crescent told Anadolu Agency. Some 21 were transferred to hospitals in Jerusalem, it added.
Muslims’ celebratory return to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque turned sour Thursday afternoon when clashes abruptly broke out between Israeli forces and young Palestinians.
The Palestinians, jubilant to return after nearly two weeks of protesting new Israeli security measures, entered through the Bab Hutta gate to the holy site, but those already inside began throwing stones after they heard the sound of stun grenades from the pathway up to the gate.
Despite the mosque loudspeakers urging people to retreat and pray, many continued clashing with Israeli forces, a dozen of whom advanced into the compound to disperse the crowds.
At one point Israeli forces forced everyone into the mosque, throwing stun grenades in as people tried to close the door, an Anadolu Agency reporter saw at the scene.
Old City gates closed
Israeli police also closed Jerusalem's Old City gates and prevented Palestinians from entering, Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, told Anadolu Agency.
“The police deployed dozens of Israeli officers at the gates, closed down the holy compound, and prevented Palestinians from praying at the mosque,” he added.
Meanwhile, thousands joined a congregational prayer led by the mosque’s clergy, who had been carried in on the shoulders of the celebrating crowds.
The return followed Israel agreeing to remove controversial metal detectors, installed after a deadly July 14 shootout at the holy site. Palestinians refused to accept the new security measures, calling them part of Israeli efforts to control Al-Aqsa.
The city of Jerusalem is sacred to members of all three Abrahamic faiths -- Muslims, Jews and Christians -- and the Al-Aqsa Mosque represents the Islamic world's third-holiest site.