More than 150 Palestinians were wounded on Friday in violence involving Israeli security forces at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, medics said, following the killing of several people in Israel and the occupied West Bank in recent weeks.
The violence at the third holiest site in Islam, which is also revered in Judaism, comes during Ramadan and before the Jewish holiday of Passover.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said 153 people at Al Asqsa Mosque were injured by rubber bullets, stun grenades and assault. Tear gas was also used by security forces.
“There are attacks against our staff … on medical personnel and ambulances. There’s denied access to reach victims,” a spokesperson for the medical organisation told The National.
Israeli police denied the medic's account and said “the only ones injured are police officers hurt by aggressive rock-throwing at them”.
The force said hundreds of people were “disrupting the public order” at the site, in Jerusalem’s Old City, and some had barricaded themselves inside the mosque.
Israeli police arrested more than 80 Palestinians, Sheikh Omar Al Kiswani, director of Al Aqsa Mosque, told Palestine TV, Reuters reported.
Stones littered the complex while heavily armed police used weapons such as stun grenades against people at the site.
Such scenes are reminiscent of violence at Al Aqsa a year ago that preceded the 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Israel, which has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, said the government is “committed to freedom of worship for people of all faiths”.
“I send my support to the security forces who acted this morning with sensitivity and determination, thus enabling prayers to continue as normal,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Israel’s security forces had launched a “brutal assault” at the holy site.
“Our people have the right to defend their land and sanctities,” the premier said.
Jordan, which is the custodian of the holy site, released a joint statement with the Palestinian Authority accusing Israel of “a dangerous and condemnable escalation that threatens to explode the situation”.
Friday’s violence came after Israeli forces killed at least 12 Palestinians in the West Bank during the past week. Those killed include alleged militants, a child accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail, and an unarmed woman.
Over the past month, 14 people have been killed in attacks in Israel that were carried out by Arab-Israelis or Palestinians from the West Bank.
The situation in Jerusalem was relatively calm over the same period, with Israeli security forces arresting some Palestinians at the Old City’s Damascus Gate.
Separately, police arrested four people and uncovered a goat on Thursday after reports that radical Israelis intended to carry out an animal sacrifice at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound.
Jews are allowed to visit but not pray or carry out religious ceremonies at the site. A notice offering a financial reward to anyone who sacrificed a sheep or goat at the compound was posted on Facebook.