Israeli police and Palestinians skirmished Sunday over the closure of Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem for second week in a row.
Ismail Zaydah / Reuters
Israeli police shut down access to key Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday, spurring Palestinian protesters to throw rocks and bottles in protest – marking the second consecutive Sunday of disturbances near the city's overlapping points of prayer for Jews and Muslims.
Clashes broke out in reaction to Israel's closure of the entrances to the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest site. About 150 Palestinians who gathered for a prayer service near the city's Lion's Gate on Sunday morning hurled rocks and bottles at Israeli police, who fired tear gas in attempt to disperse the crowd. Palestinian officials said nine people were treated for light injuries, primarily tear gas inhalation. Israel said two of its policeman were sent to hospitals after being injured by rocks and bottles.
An Israeli police spokesman said that the decision to close the site was made following calls in various Palestinian media on Saturday night to march on the Haram el-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary), as it is called in Arabic – referred to by Israelis as the Temple Mount. Several Islamic groups claim that an Israeli archeological dig below the site is endangering Al Aqsa and that it will soon collapse, a claim Israel denies.
Various Palestinian Islamists had called on Saturday evening for people to march en masse to the site. Overnight, a group of several dozen Palestinians entered the mosque compound to confront what they feared would be a visit Sunday by Jewish extremists.
The site was closed "for security reasons," says Israel Police Spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld.
"It was closed in order to prevent any disturbances from breaking out today on the Temple Mount. Yesterday and today there were calls to come and protect the Temple Mount, and it was felt that this measure was necessary to prevent any further disturbances," Rosenfeld says. By the afternoon, he says, police had decided to let elderly people and children enter the mosque compound, but not young men.