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Home World News Washington Post World News Israeli Police Enter Jerusalem Flashpoint, Arrest 2

Israeli Police Enter Jerusalem Flashpoint, Arrest 2

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JERUSALEM – Israeli police entered Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, two days after clashes with Palestinians.

Police removed Palestinians from the sprawling esplanade outside the mosque itself early Sunday, while dozens of Palestinians remained inside the building chanting “God is the Greatest.”

Police said they entered to facilitate the routine visit of Jews to the holy site. They said the Palestinians had been storing stones and erecting barriers in anticipation of violence. Police said they are committed to facilitating freedom of worship for Jews and Muslims.

But shortly after, Palestinians reported brief clashes with Israeli police just outside the mosque complex. Palestinian medics said 10 people were injured.

The site is the third holiest in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount. It has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence. Clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem last year erupted in an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Police also said stone throwers had attacked buses in East Jerusalem, near the Old City. A number of buses, which appeared to be carrying Jewish visitors, were damaged and police said some passengers had minor injuries. It said they had arrested two suspects and were looking for others.

Clashes broke out at the site before dawn on Friday after police said Palestinians had thrown rocks at the Western Wall, an adjacent Jewish holy site. Shortly after morning prayers, police arrived on the scene and clashed with dozens of Palestinians.

The hilltop compound is located in Jerusalem’s Old City, home to important sites sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This year, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Christian holy week culminating in Easter Sunday, and the weeklong Jewish Passover all take place simultaneously, with tens of thousands of visitors flocking to the city after coronavirus restrictions are largely lifted.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, along with the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want a future state in all three areas. 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 an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamist militant group seized power there in 2007.

Ancient conventions prohibit Jewish visitors from praying on the Temple Mount, and for decades Jews have avoided worship there for religious reasons.

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, something the Palestinians view as a provocation. Such practices have fueled concerns among Palestinians that Israel plans to take over or divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque — a claim Israel vehemently denies.

A radical Jewish group recently called on people to bring animals to the site to be sacrificed for Passover, and offered monetary rewards to those who succeeded or even tried. The Israeli police are trying to prevent such activities, but the call was widely circulated by Palestinians on social media, along with calls for Muslims to avoid making sacrifices.



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