Israel police clash with Palestinians at holy site

AP News
Posted: Feb 24, 2012 2:23 PM
Israel police clash with Palestinians at holy site

Israeli police clashed with hundreds of Palestinians throwing rocks after Muslim prayers at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site on Friday, while Israeli troops opened fire on protesters at a separate demonstration in the West Bank, killing one Palestinian.

It was not immediately clear what set off the confrontation at the Jerusalem shrine sacred to both Jews and Muslims. However, there have been heightened tensions in recent days, with rumors circulating among Palestinian activists that far right Israelis are trying to gain entry to Muslim-controlled areas at the site. The rumors were false, according to Israeli police.

Violence has repeatedly erupted in the past at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits atop the remains of the two biblical Jewish temples. It is the most sacred site in Judaism and is Islam's third-holiest site.

The shrine looms large in the rival narratives of Israelis and Palestinians, and any perceived attempt to change the delicate division of control there quickly sets off protests.

Later in the day, a Palestinian died of wounds after being shot by Israeli troops during a demonstration near Ramallah in the West Bank. The Israeli military said Palestinians protesting the events in Jerusalem threw rocks and firebombs at soldiers stationed nearby, prompting a soldier to open fire.

Friday's clashes in Jerusalem began after Muslim noon prayers. Hundreds of worshippers emerging from the two mosques in the walled compound staged a demonstration protesting the rumored plans by far right activists to enter the shrine.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said hundreds of worshippers threw rocks at police, who fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd. Najeh Bkeirat, a Muslim official at the scene, said demonstrators began throwing stones after police tried to stop their march.

Rosenfeld said 11 officers were lightly hurt by rocks. Bkeirat said about 30 Palestinians were treated at the scene for light injuries from tear gas inhalation and scuffles. Rosenfeld said no tear gas was fired and that four Palestinians were arrested.