Mosque ‘victory’ triggers clashes
ISRAEL: Clashes broke out inside Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound yesterday as thousands of Palestinians returned to the holy site for the first time in two weeks after a standoff with police.
Israel installed metal detectors, cameras and railings outside the mosque after two of its police officers were shot dead on July 14 but the move led to a backlash of both civil protest and violence from Palestinians.
Thousands of Palestinians prayed outside the mosque each day rather than go through the new security set-up. But yesterday, the Israeli government removed the last of the railings and the Waqf, the Islamic authority that administers the mosque, gave the all-clear for worshippers to return.
Thousands of worshippers streamed into the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, for afternoon prayers. Some shed tears as they entered while others shouted ‘‘Allahu Akbar’’ in joy.
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, hailed the removal of the barriers as a ‘‘victory’’.
But clashes soon broke out between riot police and parts of the crowd.
Palestinian officials said 46 Palestinians were injured. Israeli police said youths had thrown stones at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall.
Palestinian factions had called for a Day of Rage against Israeli forces and Israeli officials said they expected large demonstrations would go ahead.
Palestinian political and religious groups that are often at odds with each other have been galvanised and united by the protests over al-Aqsa and may be reluctant to lose the momentum of the last two weeks.
Mahmoud Abbas, the unpopular Palestinian president, has appeared emboldened by the protests and reportedly gave permission for the armed wing of his Fatah party to help organise confrontations with Israeli forces.
Palestinian youths are expected to confront Israeli forces at checkpoints throughout the occupied West Bank and may try to block roads that lead to Israeli settlements.
Palestinian and Israeli security agencies usually work closely together to prevent large demonstrations from spinning out of control but because of the alAqsa situation, Abbas has ordered his forces not to co-operate with Israeli troops. – Telegraph Group
Palestinians react as a stun grenade explodes in a street at Jerusalem’s Old City outside the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, after Israel removed all security measures it had installed at the compound.