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Israeli forces storm Aqsa Mosque in third day of clashes

Sept. 15, 2015 10:15 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 16, 2015 10:57 A.M.)
Israeli police use stun grenades to disperse Palestinian demonstrators in a street of the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem's Old City during scuffles with Israeli riot police on Sept. 15, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound's southern mosque on Tuesday sparking the third straight day of violent clashes at the third holiest site in Islam.

Dozens of Palestinians were injured in the clashes, during which Israeli forces fired stun grenades, tear gas canisters, and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian worshipers.

The Palestinian Red Crescent's Jerusalem director, Amin Abu Ghazala, told Ma'an that 36 Palestinians had received treatment.

He said that some of the Palestinians had suffered wounds and bruises, while others had suffered excessive tear gas inhalation. At least two were hospitalized.

The director of Al-Aqsa religious school for boys, Nadir al-Afghani, said that a 14-year-old boy was hit in his head by a rubber-coated steel bullet and had received 10 stitches.

Israeli police said five officers were lightly injured.

The Jordanian-run Waqf organisation which administers the site said that police entered deep inside the mosque and caused damage.

Amman said Israel's actions amount to "aggression" against Arab and Muslim nations, and said it was examining legal and diplomatic means to protect religious sites in the Holy City.

Jordan has custodianship rights over Muslim holy places in Jerusalem under its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

Officials from the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Endowment office in Jerusalem told Ma'an that Israeli forces entered the compound at around 6:30 a.m. and deployed across the compound.

According to Israeli police, Palestinians had barricaded themselves inside the mosque overnight as they had over the two previous days.

Police proceeded to close the doors of the southern mosque with "chains and steels," witnesses said, adding that during the ensuing clashes with Palestinian worshipers they entered the holy site.

Witnesses said that heavily-armed Israeli forces "tread on the carpets with their military boots until they reached Saladin's Minbar (pulpit)."

Witnesses said that stun grenades caused a fire to break out near the mosque's Bab al-Janaez (funerals door), which fire fighters were able to put out.

An Israeli police spokesperson denied that police had entered the compound, although a spokesman for the Islamic Endowment that controls the compound, Firas al-Dibs, also said "police stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque and went inside" as far as the minbar.

A Palestinian man lies on the floor after a scuffle with Israeli riot police near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, on September 14, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Palestinians denied entry

At least four Palestinians were reported detained, including a 10-year-old boy identified as Momin al-Tawil.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces closed all gates to the compound except Hatta, al-Majlis and the Chain gates, and denied all Palestinians entry.

Religious schools inside the compound said that students and staff were also initially denied entry, although later in the morning they were allowed to enter.

Dozens of Jewish settlers toured the compound in the morning under heavy Israeli police escort, celebrating the final day of the Jewish new year holiday.

Meanwhile, fierce clashes raged in the Old City's narrow streets beyond the mosque compound. Israeli police fired stun grenades at Palestinian protesters throwing stones.

"The real owners of Al-Aqsa are kept outside while the thieves are inside," said a 42-year-old Palestinian who had come from Nazareth to protest, adding that she feared Israel was aiming to allow Jewish worship at the compound.

The clashes followed two days of violence at the mosque compound, with a number of Palestinians injured and detained by Israeli forces on both days.

The compound is Judaism's most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

The latest flare-up came despite calls for restraint from both the United Nations and the United States, and a warning from Jordan, which has custodianship rights over Muslim holy places in Jerusalem under its 1994 peace treaty with Israel, that relations were on the line.

Israeli forces look up at Palestinian stone-throwers during clashes near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, on September 13, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Israel 'playing with fire'

The PLO has also accused Israel of provoking the entire Muslim world in its actions at the mosque compound.

"Israel is playing with fire," senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said Monday, warning that Israeli authorities were forcibly securing control over the site "in preparation for the total annexation and transformation of Al-Haram Al-Sharif."

She said: "Israel is not only provoking the Palestinians, but the entire Muslim world."

Palestinians have expressed fears that Israel is seeking to change rules governing the site, with far-right Jewish groups pushing for more access to the compound and even efforts by fringe organisations to erect a new temple.

Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the compound, but Jews are not allowed to pray or display national symbols, under an agreement between Israel and the Islamic Endowment that controls the site.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, also known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), is a 144,000-square-meter compound in the Old City of Jerusalem.

It includes two major mosques, the iconic Dome of the Rock and a silver-domed mosque known as the southern mosque.

Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad traveled from the sacred mosque in Mecca to Al-Aqsa during the night journey known as Isra and Miraj.

Israel seized East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, in the Six Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

AFP contributed to this report.

Amateur footage captured inside the compound's southern mosque, on Sept. 12, 2015.
Comments
carlos / usa
israel is terror!
15/09/2015 18:56
Stan Squires / Canada
I am from Vancouver,Canada and I supports the Palestinian People in East Jerusalem in their fight to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque against the barbaric Israeli settlers and the apartheid Israeli settlers.The Israeli settlers got no right to be at the Al-Aqsa Mosque or to be in East Jerusalem.
16/09/2015 21:14
ian / australia (1)
The operation on the Aqsa is crystal clear. (They may as well call it Operation: Goldstein.) The plan is to create as much conflict and violence as possible so the state can step in to restore order. Essentially, it's what they tried at Suez (though it failed) and Hebron where it worked like a charm
21/09/2015 23:37
Outlier / USA
This article - obviously incomplete and biased - tells only a portion of the story. I'd like to know how this confrontation began, and I will bet it was provoked by Palestinians.
22/09/2015 02:01
ian / australia (1)
The operation on the Aqsa is crystal clear. (They may as well call it Operation: Goldstein.) The plan is to create as much conflict and violence as possible so the state can step in to restore order. Essentially, it's what they tried at Suez (though it failed) and Hebron where it worked like a charm
23/09/2015 03:28
ian / australia (1)
"This article - obviously incomplete and biased..." Witness Outlier channeling Israeli spin. Although Israel OCCUPIED the Haram in '67 (illegally), (illegally) ANNEXED it in '80, defies the "status quo" by approving provocative (illegal) "tours" by settlers with kippot, payot and tzitzit and escorted
27/09/2015 01:11
ian / australia (2)
(contd.) by guards with machine guns (breaking every rule in the book) and uses physical force, tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets to suppress resistance to escalating Israeli violations, he "will bet" the present conflict was "provoked by Palestinians."
27/09/2015 01:13
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