Israeli forces storm holy site

Police, Palestinian youth clash at Jerusalems most sensitive al-Aqsa mosque

Israeli forces storm holy site


A medic for the Palestinian Red Crescent said 18 Palestinians were injured. The police reported that three officers were hurt.
 The unrest, following a similar incident a month ago, did not appear to herald any immediate slide into widescale violence that could disrupt the US-led efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, suspended since December.

But the confrontation between the Israeli police in riot gear and rock-throwing Muslims alarmed by rumours that right-wing Jews planned to enter the site was a reminder that Jerusalem remains a cauldron of heated religious and political passions.

The police, who also used tear gas in the clashes, did not go into al-Aqsa mosque, situated on al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), regarded by Muslims as the third holiest site after the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
The compound is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, where the two destroyed Biblical Temples once stood.

Israel captured the site in a 1967 war, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, which it annexed, and adjoining parts of the West Bank.
The police said the violence began after the Palestinians threw stones at officers on patrol in the area. The police then rushed onto the compound behind riot shields, using stun grenades and batons to repel protesters, who retreated into the mosque.

 During the clash, dozens of young Arab men threw rocks, lumps of masonry and water tanks from the roofs of houses at police in the narrow alleyways around the mosque compound, which overlooks Judaism’s Western Wall.

A police spokesman said 16 people were arrested and that calm had largely returned to the area, several hours after the clashes erupted and police enforcementsdeployed across East Jerusalem.  
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned “the storming of Haram al-Sharif by the Israeli forces”. He called on the international community “to put pressure on Israel... and prevent tension in the region.”

Internal Palestinian tensions have also risen over a decision by the Western-backed Abbas on Friday to push ahead with presidential and parliamentary elections on January 24 in the absence of a unity deal with the rival Hamas Islamist group.

Palestinians have been united in their concern that Israel is tightening its grip on the Old City and Arab East Jerusalem.

Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital, a claim that has not been recognised internationally, and has said construction for Jewish housing would continue there despite Palestinian and international calls for a settlement freeze.

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