Clashes at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa ahead of Jewish holiday
Clashes broke out at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound yesterday as Palestinians protested against Jews visiting the flashpoint holy site ahead of a religious feast, Israeli police said.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said dozens of Palestinian youths had began throwing stones and firing flares at police once Jewish visitors ascended to the compound on the eve of the week-long holiday for Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles.
Police warded off the rioters to Al-Aqsa mosque, from where they threw stones and petrol bombs at police, lightly wounding four, Samri told AFP, adding that the visit by non-Muslims then went ahead.
Samri said five rioters were arrested and Palestinian medics said 17 were injured in the clashes.
Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Islamic Waqf (religious endowments) body that oversees the site, said he had implored police to prevent Jews from visiting in order to avoid clashes with a group of Muslims who had spent the night at the mosque.
"I asked that there would be no contact, but police refused, and this is the result," he told AFP.
The Al-Aqsa compound is the scene of frequent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.
The plaza houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, and is revered by Jews as the location of the biblical Jewish temples, considered Judaism's holiest place.
Non-Muslim visits to the Al-Aqsa complex are permitted and regulated by police, but Jews are not allowed to pray at the site for fear it could trigger major disturbances and unrest.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the security establishment to increase forces in Jerusalem and take "vigorous action" against those who disrupt order, noting a rise in "stone-throwing and violence."
"We need to deal with this not just due to the holidays but in a thorough manner," he said.
Since July's killing of a Palestinian teen by Jewish extremists and a bloody 50-day Israeli military offensive in Gaza that ended on August 26, Palestinians youths have been almost constantly on the streets throwing stones and petrol bombs at police, motorists and public transport.