Clashes have erupted between Palestinian Muslim worshippers and Israeli Jewish hardliners at Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem after hundreds of Jews tried to enter the mosque complex to mark the Tisha B’Av holiday.
Israeli police stormed the mosque shortly after the skirmishes on Sunday morning and closed the gates of the compound, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the city reported.
Our correspondent said the police fired sound bombs inside the compound.
In a statement, Israeli police said that they stormed the mosque to root out what they said were Palestinian protesters suspected of stockpiling fireworks and petrol bombs in preparation for a riot.
“Masked rioters fled into the mosque and started to throw stones and blocks at police from inside Al-Aqsa Mosque. They threw fireworks directly at police,” a statement said, adding that a number of police were wounded.
The Palestinian news agency meanwhile said Jewish settlers had assaulted a Palestinian child near one of the gates leading to Al-Aqsa Mosque on Saturday, prompting a group of Palestinians to intervene before the police dispersed them.
Al-Aqsa, known to Jews as Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, and is a frequent flashpoint for demonstrations and clashes.
Jews are allowed to enter the compound, but are forbidden from praying there for fear of triggering tensions with Muslim worshippers.
Israeli police were on high alert ahead of the Tisha B’Av, an annual fast day in Judaism which commemorates the anniversary of a number of disasters in Jewish history.
The Times of Israel newspaper reported that tensions were high between the Muslim and Jewish communities after a video emerged over the weekend of a Jewish woman insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its indivisible and eternal capital, a claim not recognised internationally.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after the 1967 war, as the capital of a state they aspire to establish in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.