More than 150 Palestinians have been injured in clashes that at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound, medics have reported.
The mosque has been at the center of clashes in the past, most notably last year when violence at the compound spiraled into military action. The latest scenes were prompted as in previous clashes by a police raid on the compound.
The majority of injuries sustained by Palestinians were caused by rubber bullets, stun grenades and police batons, the Palestine Red Crescent said.
Israeli forces entered the mosque before dawn prayers on Friday, ostensibly to remove rocks and stones that authorities claimed were being stockpiled in anticipation of violence. The holy site is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, and has often been the scene of unrest.
Tensions have been particularly high this year as Ramadan coincides with Passover, drawing both religious groups to the site. This has only added to an atmosphere already tense due to unsettled grievances from last year and earlier.
A surge in violence) at the site last year led to an 11-day war between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Videos posted to social media showed police firing teargas and stun grenades into the compound, whilst Palestinians threw rocks and fireworks in attempt to hold their position.
Tor Wennesland, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, called on “political, religious and community leaders on all sides to help calm the situation, avoid spreading inflammatory rhetoric and speak up against those seeking to escalate the situation”.
“Allowing tensions to spiral further only risks another escalation” he added.
Hamas condemned what it labelled “brutal attacks” by Israeli forces. Israel insists it was forced into action, with national security minister Omer Barlev saying the action was necessary due to “violent elements” amongst those praying at the mosque.