Palestinians injured at Al Aqsa as tensions in Jerusalem rise on Jewish holiday

The European Union warns of an 'explosive situation' at the holy site in the Old City

Palestinian worshippers at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound were injured in clashes with Israeli security forces on Sunday, as tensions rose with Jews visiting the holy site to mark a religious holiday.

The incident comes weeks after violence at the site and elsewhere in occupied East Jerusalem that culminated in a war between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Several worshippers were wounded by security forces or suffered tear-gas inhalation, a spokesman for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society told The National.

“There is a medic inside Al Aqsa Mosque, they gave first aid to the victims, we don’t know how many injured people [there are],” said Mohammad Fityani.

An Israeli police spokesperson said people threw stones at officers after dawn prayers.

Later on Sunday, Orthodox Jews visited the compound on the occasion of Tisha B’Av. The annual holiday commemorates the destruction of two Jewish temples by the Romans and the Babylonians.

Al Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam and while Jews are allowed to visit the complex, they are not permitted to perform prayers there. The holiest site where Jews can pray is the Western Wall, which lies below the mosque compound.

After a briefing with security chiefs, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ordered visits by Jews to continue at the compound on Sunday.

The Palestinian presidency condemned the events as an “escalation”, which poses “a grave danger to the stability and security of the region”, in a statement published by the official Wafa news agency.

The European Union delegation to the Palestinians said leaders “from all sides should act urgently to calm down this explosive situation”.

Although Jordan serves as custodian of Al Aqsa, Israeli security forces have operated there since the country’s military took control of East Jerusalem in 1967.

The mounting tensions on Sunday come ahead of Muslims marking Eid Al Adha this week.

Ramadan celebrations earlier this year were marred by clashes at Al Aqsa and elsewhere in Jerusalem’s Old City, in which hundreds of Palestinians and dozens of Israeli police officers were injured.

Violence in Jerusalem was followed on May 10 by the outbreak of the Gaza war, 11 days of the worst fighting between Israel and the Palestinian enclave since 2014.

Updated: July 18th 2021, 3:56 PM