Clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem early on Friday after police entered the compound, injuring more than 150 Palestinians who had gathered there for morning prayers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The Israeli government said its forces entered to remove rocks and stones that had been gathered in anticipation of violence.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said 152 Palestinians were injured and taken to various medical facilities in the area.
#PalestineRCS in #Jerusalem: 152 injured worshippers were transferred from the AlAqsa Mosque to nearby hospitals including the PRCS field hospital. Injuries were due to rubber bullets, sound grenades or assaulting. Dozens of other injuries were treated in the field. pic.twitter.com/3f5mwTiyny— PRCS (@PalestineRCS) April 15, 2022
The Israeli government said masked men marched to the mosque and were stockpiling stones and other objects in anticipation of violence, adding at least three Israeli officers were injured in the "massive stone throwing".
Videos circulating online showed Palestinians hurling rocks and fireworks and police firing tear gas and stun grenades on the sprawling esplanade surrounding the mosque. Videos also showed showed worshippers barricading themselves inside the mosque itself amid what appeared to be clouds of tear gas.
The police were forced to enter the grounds to disperse the crowd and remove the stones and rocks, in order to prevent further violence, said the Israeli foreign ministry in a tweet. It added dozens of masked men carrying Palestinian and Hamas flags marched to the compound and gathered stones.
Dozens of masked men carrying Hamas and PA flags marched into Al-Aqsa mosque in the early morning hours, chanting inciting messages and setting off fireworks.— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) April 15, 2022
The crowd collected stones and large rocks, which were then hurled in the direction of the Mugrabi Gate. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/pmX1t5y0X2
The site is the third holiest in Islam and the holiest for Jews who call it the Temple Mount.
The site has often been a flashpoint in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It has often been the epicentre of Israeli-Palestinian unrest, and tensions were already heightened amid a recent wave of violence.
The clashes have taken place at a sensitive time as tensions have soared in recent weeks following a series of deadly attacks by Palestinians that killed 14 people in Israel. The Israeli authorities have carried out a wave of arrests and military operations in the occupied West Bank, setting off clashes in which several Palestinians have been killed.
Moreover, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan this year has coincided with Passover, a major weeklong Jewish holiday beginning Friday at sundown, and Christian holy week, which culminates on Easter Sunday. The holidays are expected to bring tens of thousands of faithful into Jerusalem's Old City, home to major sites sacred to all three religions.
With AP inputs