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Dozens hurt in fresh clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa site

On the last Friday of Ramadan, after weeks of bloodshed at the sensitive sacred site, fresh skirmishes between Palestinians and Israeli police occurred at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, injuring 42 people.

No one was critically injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, although 22 individuals were transported to the hospital.

In the early hours of Friday, Israeli police released images of young males on the compound flinging stones and pyrotechnics. Officers arrived at the scene early in the morning.

According to a police statement, they entered to apprehend “rioters and lawbreakers,” some of whom were attempting to throw stones at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish shrine beneath Al-Aqsa.

Police said officers used “riot dispersal means” to contain the unrest and that two people had been arrested, one for throwing stones and the other one for “inciting the mob”.

An AFP journalist said Israeli police fired rubber-coated bullets while a witness said they also used tear gas.

An uneasy calm had been restored at the compound following the unrest that surrounded morning prayers, but tensions remained high.

In the early afternoon, a crowd of Muslim worshippers gathered at Al-Aqsa. Some people waved Palestinian flags and the colors of the Gaza Strip-based Hamas militant group, an AFP journalist said.

– Tensions –
Over the past two weeks, nearly 300 Palestinians have been hurt in clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound, Islam’s third-holiest site. It is also Judaism’s holiest place, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The site is in east Jerusalem, which Israel took in the 1967 Six-Day War and then annexed in a decision that most of the international world did not recognize.

During Ramadan, Israel’s raids into the compound drew global condemnation and fears of escalating long-standing Israeli-Palestinian tensions in Jerusalem.

Israel, on the other hand, claims it was forced to intervene against operatives from the Islamist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The militants are said to be threatening Muslim pilgrims at Al-Aqsa and Jews praying at the Western Wall, according to the report.

In an apparent attempt to defuse tensions, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated that the government is committed to maintaining the status quo at the site, implying that only Muslims are permitted to pray there.

Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount.

Muslim leaders have, however, been angered by a recent uptick in such visits. Some voiced fears that Israel was seeking to divide the compound and create a space where Jews may worship. Lapid told journalists that no such plan exists.

– ‘Quds Day’ –
The fresh unrest comes as the end of Ramadan nears early next week.

Violence in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem has raised fears of another armed conflict similar to an 11-day war last year between Israel and Hamas, triggered in part by similar unrest at Al-Aqsa.

Since early last week, there has been isolated rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel and Israeli reprisals, but no casualties reported on either side.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders held a rally in Gaza late Thursday, with calls to “defend” Jerusalem including Al-Aqsa.

In an annual show of pro-Palestinian rallies known as Quds (Jerusalem) Day, thousands of Iranians took to streets across the Islamic republic on Friday. Flag-waving protesters chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”, the state broadcaster IRIB reported.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made live televised remarks in support of Palestinians and slammed those in the West backing Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

“They are making so much noise about the situation in Ukraine… (and) are keeping totally silent about the crimes in Palestine,” he said.

Hamas followed with a statement thanking Iran for “standing with Jerusalem and the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque, and for supporting our resisting nation by all means.”

The Al-Aqsa tensions have occurred against a backdrop of violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank since March 22.

In four different attacks inside Israel, twelve Israelis, including an Arab-Israeli police officer, and two Ukrainians were killed. Palestinians carried out two of the deadly strikes in the Tel Aviv area.

During the same time period, 26 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs died, including attackers and those slain by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.

Courtesy Bol News

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