JERUSALEM (AP) – Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli police at a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem on Wednesday, leaving three policemen lightly injured, a police spokeswoman said.
The clashes erupted after several dozen masked Palestinians began throwing rocks, fire crackers and other pyrotechnical devices at police when the site – known to Jews as the ‘Temple Mount,’ and to Muslims as the ‘Noble Sanctuary’ – opened for prayers on Wednesday morning, said the spokeswoman, Luba Samri.
There was no immediate information on whether anyone was hurt among the Palestinian protesters.
Police chased the demonstrators toward the Al-Aqsa mosque, where they barricaded themselves inside and continued hurling objects in the direction of the police, said Samri. She said that at least one Molotov cocktail was thrown at the police, but that it failed to ignite.
The site is the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, and is a frequent flashpoint for demonstrations.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for the friction at the holy site, saying that it was deliberately raising tensions there.
“The Israeli attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, led by settlers and extremists, and under the auspices of the Israeli government, have recently increased and intensified,” Abbas said.
An Israeli Tourism Ministry decision earlier this week to expand the entrance to the Jerusalem site was condemned by Palestinian officials as a unilateral change in the status of the sensitive holy site.
Tensions have been high in Jerusalem since Hamas militants abducted and killed three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank in June and Jewish extremists killed a young Palestinian several weeks later, in a revenge attack.
Those events helped precipitate the 50-day-long Gaza war that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 72 on the Israeli side, all but six soldiers. The war ended August 26.