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Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa compound, assault worshippers

Sept. 13, 2015 10:53 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 13, 2015 9:57 P.M.)
A Palestinian youth is evacuated after being injured during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque on September 13, 2015 (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli police clashed with Palestinians at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday just hours before the start of the Jewish New Year, police and witnesses said.

Tensions have been running high at the holy site in the wake of a decision by the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon last week to outlaw two Muslim groups that seek to "protect" the compound against groups of Jewish worshipers.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound shortly after dawn prayer, firing rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades, leading to the injury of several worshipers.

The forces then surrounded worshipers inside Al-Aqsa Mosque itself and closed its doors with "chains and bars" before firing rubber-coated bullets inside the mosque, witnesses said.

Israeli police said that the rioters had barricaded themselves in the mosque overnight with the aim of disrupting visits by Jews to the site ahead of the start of New Year celebrations on Sunday evening.

Aside from the dozens of young men that had spent the night at the compound, Israeli forces had denied all worshipers, except for a small number of men over 50, entry to the holy site.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told Ma'an that Israeli forces entered the compound at 6:30 a.m. to deal with "disturbances" inside the compound, after which "Palestinians threw fire and fireworks" at the forces, who then closed off the main gates of the mosque.

Israeli forces allegedly found "a number of pipe bombs" at the compound during the raid, which Rosenfeld said he believes would have been used when visitors entered the area later that morning.

(MaanImages)

(MaanImages)

The compound opened for visitors as scheduled at 8 a.m., and more than 30 right-wing Israelis toured the compound, including right-wing Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel, heavily escorted by Israeli forces.

Israeli forces said no arrests were made and no injuries were reported during the clashes, although Palestinians witnesses reported several injuries.

An AFP journalist saw a number of people being detained and heavy police deployments in the Old City.

A Palestinian boy identified as Anas Siyam was evacuated to the hospital after he was hit with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the chest. His condition is unknown.

Witnesses added that Israeli soldiers also assaulted employees of the Palestinian Ministry of Endowment, including the the director of the compound Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani.

Following the incident, a spokesman for the Fatah movement in Jerusalem, Raafat Ulayyan, urged Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel to "hurry to defend" the holy Muslim site from which "our prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven."

He added in a statement that Muslim and Arab countries should "double their efforts" to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque against an ongoing "process of Judaisation."

Palestinians clean up debris inside Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City after clashes at the compound between Palestinians and Israeli police on September 13, 2015, just hours before the start of the Jewish New Year. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

A Palestinian takes a burnt carpet out of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City during clashes at the compound on September 13, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Senior Palestinian officials have expressed concerns in recent weeks that Israel is restricting access to the compound in a bid to establish daily Jewish prayer, despite an agreement forbidding non-Muslim worship at the site.

Israeli authorities have not responded to the claims.

The third holiest site in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

Following Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained an agreement with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa compound not to allow non-Muslim prayer in the area.

Jewish prayer is allowed at the neighboring Western Wall, which is the last remnant of the Second Temple.

However, Israeli forces have regularly escorted Jewish visitors to the Al-Aqsa compound, leading to anger among Muslim worshipers.

At the end of June, International Crisis Group reported discussions between Israel and the Islamic trust in Jordan on allowing non-Muslim worship at the site, although the move has not been confirmed.

AFP contributed to this report.

A Palestinian woman shows rubber bullets reportedly used by Israeli riot police outside the Dome of Rock at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City after clashes erupted at the compound between Palestinians and Israeli police on September 13, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces blocking a road leading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City on September 13, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Comments
inam / neatherlands
stop aggreson against palistine people and Against Al Aqsa mosque,don,t start new program in Al Aqsa compound you occupier can not make fool whole world,stop aggrsson go to U.S.A there are wealthy jews who give election funds to cover u cruelty and assult against palistina people free palistine,
14/09/2015 20:12
Outlier / USA
The fourth photo shows plenty of rocks and answers the question as to which side is the aggressor at al-Aqsa. Rocks are Palestinian weapons - Israeli security certainly didn't throw them into the building.
17/09/2015 01:42
Charles / Brazil
To call those guys worshippers is an insult to your journalistic name.
20/09/2015 08:01
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