JERUSALEM (AP) – Muslim worshippers and Israeli police clashed yesterday at a major Jerusalem holy site during prayers marking the Islamic holiday of Aidiladha.
Palestinian medics said at least 14 people were wounded, one seriously, in the skirmishes with police at the site, which Muslims refer to as the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and Jews refer to as the Temple Mount.
Police said at least four officers were wounded. Witnesses said at least two people were arrested.
Tens of thousands of Muslims had flocked to the site in Jerusalem’s Old City early Sunday for holiday prayers, police said.
Large numbers of Palestinians had gathered at the gates of the compound early Sunday after rumours circulated that police would allow Jewish visitors to enter the site.
The protesters threw stones at police, who then charged into the compound while firing stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets.
Israeli police had initially barred entry to Jewish visitors, but reversed their decision after the clashes broke out and allowed them to enter.
Several dozen entered the site under close police escort and Muslim worshippers began throwing chairs and other objects at the group. The Jewish visitors left the compound shortly thereafter.
Jews are barred from praying at the compound under a longstanding arrangement between Israel and Muslim authorities. Jewish tradition also maintains that Jews should avoid entering the holy site.
But in recent years Israeli religious nationalists have stepped up visits to the site to challenge the arrangement.
In a separate incident on Sunday, Israeli troops killed a Palestinian gunman after he opened fire on them from across the perimeter fence around the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military said an “armed terrorist” approached the frontier early Sunday and opened fire toward troops on the other side, who responded by shooting at the attacker. The army said a tank also targetted a nearby military post operated by the militant group Hamas.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza identified the deceased as 26-year-old Marwan Nasser. It was not clear if he was a member of an armed group, and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Saturday, Israeli troops killed four Palestinian militants who the army said had tried to carry out a cross-border attack. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, said the attack was an “individual act” carried out by youths frustrated at the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza and was not planned by the group.