Israeli police officers in Jerusalem entered the plaza containing Al Aksa Mosque on Sunday after Palestinian youths barricaded inside threw stones at visitors they believed to be radical Jewish settlers.
Dozens of young Palestinians had spent the night in the compound, holy to Muslims and Jews, because of rumors that militant Jews planned to take it over during the Purim holiday, which began Sunday. The resulting clashes ended with more than a dozen youths injured, seven men detained and four police officers slightly injured. The site was calm but tense by late afternoon.
The confrontation followed similar disturbances at the Cave of the Patriarchs in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron in recent days involving stone-throwing youths and Israeli security forces. Those troubles began after the Israeli government decided to include the Hebron site along with Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem on a list of national heritage sites scheduled for renovation and upkeep by the state.
All three shrines — the Hebron cave, the Bethlehem tomb and the plaza in Jerusalem known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount — came under Israeli control in the 1967 Middle East war and have been the sites of frequent tension ever since.
Just below the Jerusalem plaza is the Western Wall, a Jewish prayer site that was part of the perimeter of the Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans 2,000 years ago. By mutual agreement between the Israeli government and Palestinian religious authorities, Jews do not pray atop the plaza itself to avoid friction. But some Jews have sought to challenge that ban.
After the police raid, Palestinian leaders in the West Bank accused Israel of increasing tensions and undermining American efforts to restart peace negotiations. But an Israeli police spokesman said that the forces had gone in because the stone throwing was threatening tourists and worshipers. NYT