JERUSALEM: Palestinians clashed with Israeli police at the compound of the Al-Aqsa mosque on Sunday after witnesses said police entered the mosque and reportedly caused damage to the holy site.
According to reports, Israeli police have used tear gas and stun grenades against Palestinians inside the mosque compound.
A Muslim witness accused police of entering the mosque much further than would have been needed to close the doors and of causing damage, saying prayer mats were partially burned.
“The police went inside and we are prevented from entering,” Khadijeh Khweis, who said she is a member of one of the two Muslim groups banned last week, told news agency AFP amid protests in the Old City.
“They are chasing us with (stun) grenades and it’s been like that since the morning. We could only pray in front of the doors (leading to the complex).”
Israeli police claimed they closed the doors to the mosque to lock in rioters throwing stones, fireworks and other objects. Israeli police claimed 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.
An AFP journalist saw a number of people being detained and heavy police deployments in the Old City.
Israeli police claimed calm later returned to the mosque complex, though clashes continued outside in the narrow alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City, with police firing tear gas and stun grenades.
The Al-Aqsa mosque is one of the holiest Islamic sites in the world.
Israel seized east Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, in the Six Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.