Hundreds of visitors to Jerusalem's old walled city got more than the tour of religious holy sites they had bargained for on Sunday, as violence between Israeli police and Muslims at al-Aqsa Mosque spilled over into some of the otherwise charming cobblestone alleys that frame the compound.
Eighteen Palestinians and three Israeli policemen were injured in the latest of a series of recent confrontations at the mosque, situated on al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), which Muslims regard as their third holiest site. Jews revere the area as the Temple Mount, a site where two ancient temples once stood. The Western Wall remnant to a Roman-era temple, one of Judaim's holiest sites, is right next door.
As the clashes ensued, tourists visiting a Christian holy site on a neighbouring Jerusalem street hurried on past as Israeli police scuffled with Palestinian protesters throwing stones, hurling an occasional firebomb and burning trash on an intersecting alley.
Helmeted riot police kept dozens of Palestinians waiting behind metal barricades even as they ushered through the tourists headed to see the site of Jesus' biblical walk down the Via Dolorosa, where he was marched to his crucifixion. White-robed Palestinian medics could be seen hurrying in the other direction, carrying injured men and women out on stretchers to waiting ambulances outside the old city's walls.
Bill Dykstra, a health consultant from Canada's Vancouver, was one of many who sought to capture some of the drama by snapshot. He photographed a few dozen Muslim worshippers kneeling in prayer outside the closed green gates to the compound that houses al-Aqsa, just a few steps away from where some policemen were arresting two screaming Palestinian protesters.