Tensions remain high in the area surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem as Israeli police prevented dozens of Palestinian worshippers from entering the compound to perform dawn prayers a day after clashes between the two sides.
Many worshippers trying to enter the compound on Tuesday were turned away by police, who prevented all but those aged over 60 from entering the site, forcing many Palestinians to perform their dawn prayers in the street.
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Jerusalem, said the police used stun grenades to disperse many of the younger worshippers who objected to being blocked from the site.
“This comes following a day of skirmishes in the compound on Monday after Jewish and non-Jewish groups entered the compound with the Israeli police for the Sukkot Jewish holidays,” El-Shamayleh said.
“Among these visitors were far-right Jewish activists whose presence provokes Palestinians.
“That’s because they have openly called on the Israeli government to practice more sovereignty and control over the Al-Aqsa compound, which is under Jordan’s custodianship.
“Palestinians also feel their calls for Israeli control of the compound could eventually lead to the division of Islam’s holiest site among Palestinians and Jews.
“This is why Palestinians feel so strongly about protecting the compound.”
The Al-Aqsa mosque is Islam’s third holiest site, and the site is also sacred in Judaism.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday blamed “Palestinian extremists” for clashes at the site, denying Israel was behind the mounting tensions.
“Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo exactly as it’s been for many decades,” he said in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was visiting the country, the AFP news agency reported.
“What we’re seeing is Palestinian extremists who are instigating violence through incitement.”
Ban said he was “deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem,” which “inflame tensions and must stop”.
The UN chief’s remarks came hours after clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound as Palestinian protesters demonstrated against Orthodox Jews going to the esplanade.
There were similar clashes as 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.