Israeli police enter the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, two days after clashes with Palestinians
JERUSALEM — Israeli police entered the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, two days after clashes with Palestinians.
Police evacuated Palestinians from the sprawling plaza outside the mosque itself early on Sunday, while dozens of Palestinians remained inside the building chanting “God is the greatest”.
Police said they entered to facilitate routine Jewish visitation to the holy site. They said the Palestinians had stockpiled stones and erected barriers in anticipation of violence. Police said they are committed to facilitating freedom of worship for Jews and Muslims.
The site is the third holiest in Islam and the holiest to Jews, who call it the Temple Mount. It has long been a hotbed of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Clashes erupted at the site before dawn on Friday after police said Palestinians threw stones at the Western Wall, an adjacent Jewish holy site. Police stormed in and clashed with dozens of Palestinians shortly after dawn prayers.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as well as the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want a future state in all three territories. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in an internationally unrecognized move and is building and expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank. Hamas controls Gaza, which has been under Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group took power in 2007.
Palestinians have long feared that Israel is considering taking control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound or dividing it.
Israeli authorities say they are determined to maintain the status quo, but in recent years large groups of nationalist and religious Jews have regularly visited the site with police escorts, which Palestinians see as a provocation.