Israeli police fired stun grenades at Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound Friday, two weeks after similar unrest at the sensitive religious site triggered deadly hostilities in Gaza.
AFP reporters said Israeli forces fired rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades at unarmed Palestinians, including into a group of men standing around talking, one with a prayer mat slung over his shoulder.
Some youths responded by lobbing stones.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 21 people were hurt in the Al-Aqsa clashes, including two who were hospitalised.
The Palestinian presidency in a statement condemned the “Israeli occupation forces storming Al-Aqsa mosque after Friday prayers and their assault on worshippers”.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “riots broke out” at the Al-Aqsa compound, which is Islam’s third holiest site and also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
“Hundreds of people threw rocks and petrol bombs at police officers who responded at the scene and began dispersing the rioters,” he said.
Relative calm then returned to the compound.
Days of unrest at Al-Aqsa during Islam’s holy fasting month of Ramadan led Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, to demand Israeli forces vacate the compound by 6pm on May 10.
Hamas fired rockets at Israel when the deadline expired, prompting Israel to launch a devastating aerial bombardment campaign on the Gaza Strip.
‘Steadfastness of the people’
A ceasefire to end the Gaza hostilities appeared to be holding on Friday.
In the occupied West Bank, hundreds gathered in several towns after Friday prayers to mark the end to the Israeli air strikes on Gaza.
The Red Crescent said dozens were wounded after Israeli forces fired live rounds, rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades and tear gas in some areas.
North of Ramallah, Mohammed Mosleh and his 11-year-old son had come out to show solidarity with the people in Gaza.
He told AFP he praised “the steadfastness of the people there in the face of a powerful state with devastating weapons”.
Omar Harb, who attended the rally with his sons, said that “what happened in Gaza was one of many rounds of oppression and occupation against the Palestinian people”.
“Our resistance to the occupation will not end with this round,” he said, referring to Israel.
Israeli forces have killed 25 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since May 10, Palestinian health authorities said.
The Israeli army says at least five of them had attempted to attack Israeli forces.