Israeli police confront Palestinian protesters at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque

Rosie Scammell

The National  /  May 5, 2022 

Hamas accuses Israeli authorities of ‘playing with fire’ by allowing Jews to enter the site.

Israeli police confronted Palestinian protesters at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Thursday as Muslim worshippers opposed the return of Jewish visitors to the holy site in Jerusalem.

The resumption of tours within the grounds of the Old City site follows a customary pause during the final days of Ramadan.

Israeli police fired rubber bullets at the compound and briefly entered the mosque, where worshippers had taken shelter.

Dozens of Palestinians gathered and chanted “God is greatest” as Jewish groups arrived at the site.

Israeli police said “rioters” threw rocks and other objects, slightly injuring one officer.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said medics transferred two wounded people to hospital.

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third-holiest site in Islam and the most important site for Jews, who are permitted to visit but not pray at the site. It sits above the Western Wall which is the focal point of Jewish prayers in Jerusalem.

Among those to visit the compound on Thursday was Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right politician who lives in an Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian factions including Hamas, the militant group which rules Gaza, called on Muslim worshippers to gather at Al-Aqsa on Thursday.

Hamas accused Israeli authorities of “playing with fire” by allowing Jews to enter the site.

Gaza militants and Israel fought an 11-day war a year ago, after weeks of violence at Al-Aqsa and elsewhere in occupied East Jerusalem.

The latest confrontations in the Old City come as Israel celebrates Independence Day, which marks the establishment of the state in 1948.

East Jerusalem and its ancient holy sites were captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Israelis will celebrate seizing the eastern part of Jerusalem later this month, with an annual rally through the Old City by marchers carrying Israeli flags.

On the eve of Independence Day, prime minister Naftali Bennett praised a “booming economy, a powerful military and a vibrant democracy with the most diverse government in Israel’s history”.

The Israeli air force marked the occasion by staging a flyover which included Jerusalem and Hebron/Al-Khalil, a flashpoint city in the West Bank.

In Tel Aviv, Mayor Ron Huldai scrapped the coastal city’s fireworks display due to concerns for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Rosie Scammell – correspondent, Jerusalem