Jerusalem- Israeli police have raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, with medics saying at least 152 Palestinians have been injured in the ensuing violence.
The Islamic endowment that runs the site said Israeli police entered in force before dawn on Friday, as thousands of worshippers were gathered at the mosque for early morning prayers.
Videos circulating online showed Palestinians throwing rocks and police firing tear gas and stun grenades. Others showed worshippers barricading themselves inside the mosque amid what appeared to be clouds of tear gas.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said it evacuated the majority of the wounded to hospitals. The endowment said one of the guards at the site was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.
The Palestinian Red Crescent added that Israeli forces had hindered the arrival of ambulances and paramedics from reaching the mosqu, as Palestinian media said dozens of injured worshippers remained trapped inside the compound.
Israeli police forces said they arrested at least 300 Palestinians during the latest escalation.
Israeli police said they entered the compound, the third holiest site in Islam and revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, to break up a “violent” crowd that remained at the end of the morning prayers.
They said they went in “to disperse and push back” the crowd after a group of Palestinians began throwing rocks towards the nearby Jewish prayer space of the Western Wall.
Reporting from Damascus Gate, Al Jazeera’s Najwan al-Samri said Israeli police forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound without pretext and assaulted worshippers near the Qibly prayer hall following the morning prayer.
She added that the escalation came as far-right Jewish groups called for raids of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the Jewish Passover holiday, and the offering of animal sacrifices in its courtyards, which has not occurred since ancient times.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks. Israel has been carrying out arrests and military raids in the illegally occupied West Bank, in the wake of a series of deadly attacks by Palestinians inside Israel, setting off clashes in which several Palestinians have been killed, including seven since Wednesday.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather at Al-Aqsa for Friday afternoon prayers, as Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan.
Weeks of protests and raids on Al-Aqsa during Ramadan last year escalated into an 11-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip.
The war led to the deaths of at least 260 Palestinians, as well as 13 Israelis, and significant destruction to the already impoverished territory.
Ramadan this year coincides with the Jewish Passover holiday and Christian holy week, bringing thousands of pilgrims and other visitors to Jerusalem.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.