Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Monday and deployed heavily in the courtyard, leading to clashes with Palestinian worshipers ahead of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Officials from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Endowment told Ma’an that dozens of Israeli forces raided the holy site and fired stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets “haphazardly” in the area.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 22 people wounded, with three hospitalized after being hit by rubber bullets, including one person struck in the face while inside the mosque.
Sources with the Jordanian-run organisation that administers the site, the Waqf, told AFP that police stun grenades provoked four fires inside the building that were brought under control.
Around 15 snipers deployed on the roof of the southern mosque, while Israeli forces in riot gear were stationed in the main courtyards.
Witnesses said Israeli forces closed the doors of the southern mosque with chains and forcibly evacuated worshipers from the area through the Hatta Gate.
Locals also said that Israeli soldiers used hammer drills and oxy fuel wielding tools to remove several windows from the mosque.
According to Israeli police, young Palestinian protesters had slept overnight at the mosque and also threw petrol bombs at security forces during the clashes, which caused a small fire at the entrance to the building.
Police said negotiations to have the youths leave had failed, leaving them no choice but to carry out the raid to keep them from disrupting visits to the site. Dozens of officers deployed, including on the mosque’s roof.
Only the Hatta, Chain, and Council Gates were open for Palestinians to access the holy site, with worshipers performing dawn prayers outside of the compound early Monday.
Clashes broke out on Sunday after Israeli forces raided the compound.
Young masked Palestinians “threw stones and fireworks at police and border police forces”, who responded with “riot dispersal means”, Israeli police said of Sunday’s clashes.
Calm returned to the compound later on Sunday morning and most police were withdrawn, an AFP journalist reported.
Visits by Jews were stopped on Sunday and age restrictions on Muslim men entering the compound lifted for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, but a ban on under-50s was re-imposed as Sukkot started.
Palestinians have been alarmed by an increase in visits by Jews and fear rules governing the compound will be changed.
Recent weeks have seen a series of Jewish holidays during which there has been an uptick in visits by Jews that have sparked repeated clashes.
The same situation is feared over Sukkot.
Jews celebrate Sukkot, or the Fest of Tabernacles, to commemorate their journey through the Sinai wilderness to the Holy Land after their Exodus from Egyptian slavery.
According to Biblical tradition, the first and second Jewish temples were located at the site of the Al-Aqsa compound and destroyed by the Babylonians and the Romans. MAANNEWS