Israelis raid Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem
Jerusalem // Israeli police used tear gas and stun grenades on Palestinian youths inside Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Al Aqsa official Radwan Amr said 32 of the mosque’s windows were completely or partly destroyed, a door shattered and the carpet burnt in 12 places.
Witnesses said police entered the mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, disputing police claims that they only closed the doors to lock in rioters ahead of Jewish new year, which began at sunset on Sunday.
Authorities cleared people from the compound, including members of Waqf, the Jordanian organisation that oversees the site, Waqf spokesman Firas Al Dibs said. He said two people were hurt by rubber bullets.
“The director of Al Aqsa Mos-que, Omar Kaswani, was injured and arrested,” Mr Al Dibs said. “It’s the first time they have evacuated all the guards.”
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 20 people required hospital treatment.
Palestinian president Mah-moud Abbas “strongly condemned the aggression of the Israeli storming of Al Aqsa with troops and occupation police”.
He said “we will not allow attacks against our holy places”.
Jordan condemned what it called an assault by the army, as did Egypt.
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.
The compound, revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and also a place of significance for the Jews, was opened to visitors after the violence subsided, police said.
Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan claimed the Palestinian youngsters also had pipe bombs, but there was no sign of any detonation.
The Palestinian youths, Israeli police said, had intended “to disrupt the routine of visits on the eve of Rosh Hashana”, the Jewish new year.
The clashes came after Israeli defence minister Moshe Yaalon last week outlawed two Muslim groups that frequent the compound.
Jewish ultra-nationalists have been pushing the Israeli government to allow Jewish prayer in the compound outside Al Aqsa in a move that would provoke Muslim anger.
Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian youths last erupted outside Al Aqsa in late July, on the annual Jewish day of mourning for Jerusalem’s two destroyed Biblical temples.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its indivisible and eternal capital, a claim not recognised internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after the 1967 war, as the capital of a state in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said authorities must prevent rioting at the compound.
“It is our responsibility and our power to act against rioters to allow the freedom of worship at this holy place,” Mr Netanyahu said.
He said that Israel would act “to maintain the status quo and order” at the compound.
Police said calm later returned to the mosque complex, although clashes continued outside in the narrow alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City, with authorities again firing tear gas and stun grenades.
* Agence France-Presse and Reuters
Updated: September 13, 2015 04:00 AM