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4 worshipers injured as Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa

March 16, 2014 10:15 A.M. (Updated: March 18, 2014 1:17 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli special forces stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and injured four worshipers on Sunday morning, medical sources said.

Eyewitnesses said that Israeli forces entered the compound through the the Chain Gate, throwing stun grenades and shooting rubber bullets toward worshipers and blockading worshipers in the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Four Palestinians were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and fragments of stun grenades after Israeli forces opened fire on worshipers, the medical clinic inside the Al-Aqsa compound said.

One person was hit in the forehead and subsequently lost consciousness and sight for five minutes. The individual was taken to hospital for treatment.

Three others were hit in the limbs and back, while a number of other light injuries were treated, the Al-Aqsa clinic said.

Israeli forces have been stationed at the gates of the Al-Aqsa compound since 6:30 a.m. imposing restrictions on the entrance of Palestinians into the compound, and had only allowed workers in the compound. 500 students who study at religious schools inside in the compound, however, were denied access, witnesses said.

At 8:00 a.m. students of religious schools in Al-Aqsa students and women of all ages were allowed into the compound on the condition that women leave their identity cards at the entrances. Their entrance was facilitated as a result of intervention by the Palestinian endowments department.

People younger than forty, however, were denied access.

Nine Israeli rightwing activists, including Housing Minister Uri Ariel, entered the compound in the morning, but their visit was cut short after people in the compound stopped them.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that stones were thrown at police officers at the Moroccan Gate as the site was opened to visitors, adding that police units on site were dealing with "disturbances."

The "Arab rioters" subsequently fled the area and "police did not enter the compound," while "visits continued as normal," he added.

He said that Israeli police detained seven suspects for "stone throwing."

The clashes coincide with the Jewish holiday of Purim. Activists affiliated with extremist Jewish organizations that call for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the construction of a Jewish temple on the site had earlier issues calls on social media for Jewish worshipers to celebrate the holiday inside the Al-Aqsa compound.

Because of the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa compound, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls it to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, leading to tension with Palestinian worshipers.

The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.

It is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
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