Palestinians and Israeli police brawl at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem

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Jerusalem JerusalemIn the latest outbreak of violence near Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, which is venerated by Muslims and Jews alike, Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at Palestinian youngsters throwing rocks. According to the Palestine Red Crescent, at least 42 Palestinians were hurt in early morning confrontations on Friday at Islam’s third holiest shrine.

When hundreds of people began throwing rocks and pyrotechnics, especially in the direction of the Western Wall, where Jewish worshippers gather, Israeli police said they intervened. “We will continue to act firmly against rioters and outlaws for public safety and security,” police stated in a statement.

When Ramadan coincided with the Jewish holiday of Passover this month, there were practically daily clashes at the mosque, which drew hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Jews to the highly policed location in the old city.

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Following the conclusion of Passover and Israel’s suspension of Jewish visits to the massive esplanade, which houses the golden seventh-century Dome of the Rock and the eighth-century al-Aqsa mosque, the violence had subsided this week.

The complex is the holiest place in Judaism and contains the ruins of two ancient Jewish temples. Ramadan will finish next week, and massive numbers are expected at al-Aqsa mosque on the final Friday of the fasting month.

Officials in Israel have blamed this month’s tensions on Islamist groups, particularly Hamas, which administers the Palestinian enclave Gaza, for encouraging teenagers to create disturbances in order to incite Muslim world fury against Israel.

Palestinians charged Israel with failing to implement a long-standing prohibition on Jewish prayer on the esplanade. This charge is denied by Israel.

The al-Aqsa compound is located on the old city plateau of East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East conflict and annexed in an unpopular act. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they aspire to form in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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