Fresh clashes erupt around Al-Aqsa compound

Israeli police clash with Palestinians demonstrating against Jews visiting Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.

The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the scene of frequent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians [AFP]

Israeli police have clashed with young Palestinian protesters demonstrating against Jews visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site.

The clash after morning prayers on Monday came as demonstrators protested over Orthodox Jews going to the esplanade, which is holy to both Islam and Judaism.

Similar clashes took place last week when youths threw stones and fired flares at police after Jewish visitors ascended to the compound on the eve of the week-long holiday of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles.

Luba Samri, a spokeswoman for the Israeli police, said youths on Monday set up barricades and threw stones and incendiary objects at police.

When police moved in to disperse them, the protesters moved inside Al-Aqsa mosque, which is off-limits to police.

Monday’s visit to the area by Orthodox Jews eventually went ahead without further incident, police said.

The West-Bank based Palestinian Authority denounced the visit as a “new act of ongoing provocation… while Palestinians are being barred from entering the compound”.

Israeli authorities have often barred young Palestinians from entering the compound, citing possible planned demonstrations.  

The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, on a trip to Ramallah on Monday, said he was “deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem. These only inflame tensions and must stop.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, blamed “Palestinian extremists” for the clashes and “instigating violence through incitement”.

The site is the scene of frequent clashes between police and Palestinian youths, who object to what they see as an attempted Jewish and Israeli takeover of the site, which is administered by Jordanian and Palestinian Islamic authorities.

The site houses Islamic holy sites the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque and is revered by Jews as the location of the biblical Jewish temple, considered Judaism’s holiest place.

Non-Muslim visits to the Al-Aqsa complex are permitted and regulated by police, but Jews are not allowed to pray at the site for fear it could trigger major disturbances.

Jews pray instead at the Western Wall below.

Source: AFP