Jewish-Muslim tensions boil over in Jerusalem
Tensions between Jews and Muslims reached a fever point in Jerusalem this weekend, as throngs of people descended on the city to celebrate religious holidays, The Associated Press reported.
Thousands of Jewish worshippers were seen gathering at the Western Wall for prayers marking Passover. Nearby, hundreds of Muslims, mostly Palestinians, gathered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque for Ramadan services. The two locations, which according to Smithsonian are officially just 300 feet away from each other, have crucial significance for both religions. The Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque is among the most important bastions of Islam.
As the weekend went on, many Jews went to the Al-Aqsa compound under police protection, AP reported, as Palestinians jeered and protested their presence. Trips by Jews to Al-Aqsa have "increased in size and frequency over the years," AP added, and some Palestinians fear Israel may try to take over the land on which the mosque is built.
While religious tensions in Jerusalem have been ongoing for thousands of years, violence has been boiling over in recent days. This past week, social media videos showed Palestinians and Israelis fighting, BBC News reported. One video appeared to show Israeli police beating Palestinians who had barricaded themselves inside Al-Aqsa, while another seemed to show Palestinians throwing fireworks at Israelis.
The tensions reached a head when Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa this past Wednesday and arrested protesters they said were illegally trying to stay in the mosque overnight, CBS News reported. In response, rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
BBC News noted that officials "have been warning about the risk of a new round of violence in this sacred spot at a highly sensitive time."