Israeli police attack worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa, Gaza launches rockets at Israel
JERUSALEM, April 5 (Reuters) – Israeli police attacked dozens of worshipers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound before dawn on Wednesday, witnesses said, in what Israeli police said was a response to unrest.
The incident sparked protests across the occupied West Bank and the Israeli military said nine rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel after sirens went off in southern cities.
Violence in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem has increased over the past year, and there is concern that tensions could escalate this month, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincides with the Jewish Passover and the Christian Passover.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said seven Palestinians were wounded by rubber-tipped bullets and beatings in clashes with Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. He added that Israeli forces were preventing its doctors from reaching the mosque.
“I was sitting on a chair reciting (the Qur’an),” an elderly woman told Reuters outside the mosque, struggling to breathe. “They threw stun grenades, one of them hit my chest,” she said as she began to cry.
Israeli police said in a statement that they were forced into the compound after masked agitators barricaded themselves inside the mosque with firecrackers, sticks and stones.
“When the police entered, they were pelted with stones and firecrackers were fired from inside the mosque by a large group of agitators,” the statement said, adding that a policeman was wounded in the leg.
Friction at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, has fueled violence in recent years.
Palestinian groups condemned Israel’s attacks on worshipers, which they described as a crime.
“We warn the occupation against crossing red lines in the holy places, which will lead to a major explosion,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Jordan and Egypt, both involved in recent US-backed efforts to ease tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, issued separate statements condemning the incident.
Videos circulating on social media, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed fireworks going off and police beating people inside the mosque.
The Israeli military said nine rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel, of which at least four were intercepted and four landed in open areas.
Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Additional reporting by Nisreen Salem; Writing by Henriette Chacar; Editing by Stephen Coates
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