Palestinians and Israeli police clash at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa compound

October 15, 2014
(Palestinians from Gaza pray in front of the Dome of the Rock during their visit at the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City October 5, 2014. In a rare step Israel said on October 1 it would let 500 Palestinians living in Gaza pray at the Jerusalem holy site during the Eid al-Adha feast at the weekend, and allow Palestinians from the West Bank to enter Israel more freely for the holiday. The Israeli military said that from Oct. 5 through 7, the days of the Muslim feast, 500 Palestinians from Gaza aged 60 and over would be permitted to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and 500 could visit close relatives in the occupied West Bank. REUTERS/Ammar Awad )

(Palestinians from Gaza pray in front of the Dome of the Rock ┬áin Jerusalem’s Old City October 5, 2014. REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters and shut down access to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound on Monday in a deepening dispute over access to the area, the third holiest shrine in Islam which is also revered by Jews.

The site in Jerusalem’s walled Old City has seen a marked increase in unrest in recent days as Orthodox Jews have pushed for easier access to visit the area, which they revere as the site of two destroyed biblical temples.

Tensions frequently rise at this time of year, during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, when in ancient times there would be a pilgrimage to the temple. While small groups of Jewish visitors are allowed, they are not permitted to pray.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said security forces went to the elevated compound after receiving information that Palestinian protesters planned to disrupt the visits.

“It was a police initiative to prevent disturbances,” Rosenfeld said, adding that four Palestinians had been arrested and that rocks, stones and petrol bombs were found at the scene.

Omar Kiswani, the director of al-Aqsa mosque, said Israeli police fired tear gas and used rubber bullets to suppress the protesters, who took refuge inside the mosque.

“We couldn’t breathe from the tear gas inside,” he told Reuters. “There were 14 injuries from rubber bullets, and anybody who was inside was wounded by gas inhalation.”

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