Dozens of worshippers were attacked by Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem before dawn on Wednesday, as witnesses claimed, in response to rioting.
The incident led to protests throughout the occupied West Bank, and Israel’s military alleged that nine rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel after sirens were heard in southern towns.
There has been an increase in violence in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem over the past year, and concerns have been raised that tensions may escalate this month during the overlap between the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Judaism’s Passover, and Christian Easter.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported injuries, but no further information was given regarding how many individuals were hurt.
In a statement, the organization revealed that Israeli forces refused its medics from reaching the mosque compound.
“I was sitting on a chair reciting (Qur’an),” said an elderly woman who sat outside the mosque and struggled to catch her breath. “They hurled stun grenades, one of them hit my chest,” she added while crying.
The Israeli police claimed that it had to enter the compound after “masked agitators” barricaded themselves inside the mosque with fireworks, sticks, and stones.
“When the police entered, stones were thrown at them and fireworks were fired from inside the mosque by a large group of agitators,” the police statement said, adding that one police officer sustained injuries to his leg.
Friction at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, has resulted in violence in recent years. Palestinian groups called Israel’s assault on worshippers a crime.
“We warn the occupation against crossing red lines at holy sites, which will lead to a big explosion,” said Nabil AbuRudeineh, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Jordan and Egypt, both of which have been involved in recent US-backed efforts to de-escalate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, released separate statements condemning the incident.
Videos that reportedly showed fireworks going off inside the mosque and police assaulting people circulated on social media, although Reuters could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the clips.