Tensions are heightened in Jerusalem as Palestinian worshippers clash with Israeli soldiers
JERUSALEM – At least 24 Palestinians were arrested during clashes at the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
In a statement, the Israeli police said that two personnel were lightly injured in the Sunday violence as 24 Palestinian youths were rounded up in connection with the clashes.
The Israeli police also noted that the compound is closed to visitors.
Clashes erupted earlier Sunday between Israeli policemen and Palestinian worshippers at the gates of the holy site after Israeli forces assaulted Palestinian worshippers and religious students lining up to enter the holy site, eyewitnesses said.
At least seven Palestinians suffered temporary asphyxiation and bruises in the ensuing clashes as the Israeli police fired teargas in a bid to break up the crowd, they added.
Violence spilled over into other parts of the Old City in Jerusalem between angry Palestinian protesters and Israeli policemen, the eyewitnesses said.
"The Israeli police closed a number of the compound's gates and denied access to Palestinians under the age of 50, leading to clashes with worshippers," a Palestinian guard of the compound told Tukey's Anadolu Agency.
Tension has been high in Jerusalem over threats by extremist Jewish groups, which have called on supporters to force their way into the holy compound during the weeklong Jewish Passover holiday, the last day of which is celebrated Sunday.
In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers, often accompanied by Israeli security forces, have repeatedly forced their way into the Al-Aqsa complex. The frequent violations anger Palestinian Muslims and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.