Clashes at Al Aqsa mosque for 3rd straight day

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Clashes at  Al Aqsa mosque for 3rd straight day

Published: Tue 15 Sep 2015, 2:56 PM

Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters on Tuesday in a third straight day of unrest at Occupied Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said police entered the Al Aqsa mosque compound early Tuesday morning to disperse a group of protesters who had holed up inside the mosque overnight.
The protesters threw rocks, fireworks, concrete blocks and a firebomb at officers, she said, adding that two Palestinians were arrested and five police officers were lightly injured.
She said that a firebomb thrown from within the mosque at police ignited planks of wood stockpiled by the protesters. Mosque officials later extinguished the fire, she said. Police released photos showing piles of charred rubble outside the mosque.
Police later managed to restore calm and open the site for visitors, Samri said, but a group of protesters remained inside the mosque.
Clashes then broke out on the hilltop complex, with booms heard from outside its gates. Muslims have barricaded themselves inside Al Aqsa amid protests over access to the site, venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount.
"As the police entered the compound, masked youths fled inside the mosque and threw stones at the force," a police statement said. Police said that five protesters were arrested in the compound and visits went ahead as planned.
Another four were arrested in skirmishes between security forces and protesters in the surrounding alleys of Jerusalem's Old City. Police fired stun grenades while hitting and kicking demonstrators and journalists as they sought to push back crowds.
Protesters fear Israel will seek to change rules governing the site, with far-right Jewish groups pushing for more access to the compound and even efforts by fringe organisations to erect a new temple.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the status quo will be preserved at the sensitive site, but suspicions remain among Palestinians, a sign of the deep mistrust between the two sides. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the compound, but Jews must not pray or display national symbols for fear of triggering tensions with Muslim worshippers.
"Some of the young men have been sleeping inside the compound for two or three days to defend it," Umm Mohammed, a 50-year-old among dozens of women protesting outside the gates of the Al Aqsa compound, told. "We are protecting Al Aqsa. We are not terrorists."
An AFP journalist outside the gate saw a Jewish visitor leaving the compound scuffle with Muslims outside.
Non-Muslim visits to the site increase during Jewish holidays, with some 650 visitors on Sunday, according to police. Another 500 visited on Monday during the 7:30am to 11am visiting hours, police said.
Far-right Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel was among Jewish activists who visited on Sunday, Israeli media reported.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon last week outlawed two groups that confront Jewish visitors to the compound, further fuelling tensions. His office said the Murabitat and Murabitun groups were "a main factor in creating the tension and violence" at the compound.
In clashes on Sunday, witnesses said police entered the mosque and caused damage.


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