Tension at Al-Aqsa compound as Muslim, Jewish festivals overlap

Israeli police fire tear gas and rubber bullets to clear worshippers from flashpoint site in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli police have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and sound grenades to clear Palestinian worshippers from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem following a standoff at one of the gates to the site, which is the flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Thousands of Palestinians gathered at the mosque for the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha on Sunday.

The day coincided with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, which typically sees an increase in Jewish visitors to the holy site.

Facing off with police in the packed compound outside Islam’s third-holiest site, Palestinians chanted: “With our soul and blood we will redeem you, Aqsa.”

Israeli police reportedly barred Jewish visits to the site on Sunday, but Muslim worshippers still feared they would be allowed in and protested there.

In a statement, police said they had deployed forces at the site in “anticipation of disturbances” and “dispersed rioters”.

Reporting from East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett said the temperature at the site had been rising for some time.

“The gate was opened, but no non-Muslims were allowed in. There was this big standoff and then we saw the security forces move in to clear that standoff,” Fawcett said.

“That’s when we saw the police use rubber bullets, tear gas and sound grenades,” he said, adding that at least 14 people were injured.

“There is a big political movement from the far right in Israeli politics to get more access to the area, and potentially to pray there in the future, and that is what is behind the tension,” said Fawcett.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), accused Israel of provoking religious and political tension.

“The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound by Israeli occupation forces this Eid morning is an act of recklessness and aggression,” she said in a statement.

The compound is situated in a part of East Jerusalem occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war in a move that has not won international recognition.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

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