Speed Reads

Sticks and stones

Dozens of Palestinians wounded in clash with Israeli police at Al-Aqsa Mosque during confluence of holy days

Israeli security forces entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem early Friday as thousands of Palestinians were gathered for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan. Medics with the Red Crescent say at least 117 Palestinians were wounded in the ensuing melee, some by rubber-coated bullets or stun grenades and others beaten with batons. Israel said three officers were wounded from "massive stone-throwing." 

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is on a site holy for both Muslims and Jews, and it has been at the center of several significant clashes between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Israel's Foreign Ministry said officers were responding to dozens of masked men who had marched to the compound early Friday and started gathering stones in anticipation of violence, and "police were forced to enter the grounds to disperse the crowd and remove the stones and rocks, in order to prevent further violence." 

Police say they didn't enter the mosque itself. Video shows Palestinians barricading themselves inside the mosque "amid what appeared to be clouds of tear gas," The Associated Press reports. "The clashes come at a particularly sensitive time. Ramadan this year coincides with Passover, a major week-long Jewish holiday beginning Friday at sundown, and Christian holy week, which culminates on Easter Sunday. The holidays are expected to bring tens of thousands of faithful into Jerusalem's Old City, home to major sites sacred to all three religions."

Tensions were already high before Friday's clash. Israel has responded to a spate of attacks that left 14 people dead inside Israel with police raids and military operations across the occupied West Bank. At least 25 Palestinians have been killed in the violence, AP reports, "many of whom had carried out attacks or were involved in the clashes, but also an unarmed woman and a lawyer who appears to have been killed by mistake."