Israeli police stand guard at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, on April 5, 2023. Israeli police forces broke into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem before dawn on Wednesday and clashed with dozens of Palestinian youth inside, drawing condemnation from Arab countries and sparking a new round of rocket attacks and airstrikes in the region. (Photo by Muammar Awad/Xinhua)
Jerusalem, Israel | Xinhua | Israeli police forces broke into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem before dawn on Wednesday and clashed with dozens of Palestinian youth inside, drawing condemnation from Arab countries and sparking a new round of rocket attacks and airstrikes in the region.
The Palestinian Red Crescent in Jerusalem said at least 12 were injured during clashes in the al-Aqsa compound and at least three sustained wounds from rubber-coated bullets and needed hospital care.
Video footage circulating on social media showed Israeli troops beating Palestinian youth with clubs at the gate of the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Militants in the Gaza Strip, a coastal Palestinian enclave, responded to the violence by launching some 16 rockets at southern Israel, triggering several rounds of Israeli airstrikes at Gaza.
In a statement, Israeli police said its forces stormed the compound after at least 350 Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the mosque with fireworks, sticks, and rocks.
“When the police entered, stones were thrown at them, and fireworks were fired from inside the mosque by a large group of agitators,” said the statement. The police also released video footage showing forces inside the compound and fireworks exploding.
The Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the mosque after Hamas, an Islamist Palestinian movement, called for defense against Jewish ultranationalists who planned to perform an ancient biblical ritual involving the slaughter of a goat during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which began on Wednesday evening.
Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third holiest site for Muslims, and the most sacred place for Jews. The site is located in East Jerusalem’s Old City, a territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war along the rest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“We hold the (Israeli) occupation government fully responsible for any deterioration,” Palestinian presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement. “It must act responsibly and stop this absurdity, which will have dangerous consequences for everyone.”
The incident also drew wide condemnation from Arab countries.
Saudi Arabia announced that “the kingdom is following with great concern the breach of the Israeli forces into the al-Aqsa mosque and the harm to the worshippers.”
Jordan, the custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, said in a statement issued by its Foreign Ministry that it condemned the entry of the Israeli police into the holy compound and “the attack on worshipers there.”
It called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League at the level of permanent representatives.
Egypt said in a statement that it held Israel accountable for the escalation, condemned “the aggression towards the worshipers” and demanded that Israel “immediately stop these violations, which harm the worshipers in the mosque.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Wednesday strongly condemned the “brutal” attack by Israeli police, saying that the attack once again showed Israel’s “criminal and anti-human rights” nature to the world. ■
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