Hebron tension spreads to Jerusalem: Youths barricaded in al-Aqsa Mosque since Saturday evening throw stones at passerby, prompting police forces to enter compound. Palestinians say eight worshippers hurt by tear gas. Stones hurled at police in Old City as well. Border Guard officer lightly injured in head.
by Efrat Weiss
Morning of clashes in Jerusalem's Old City: Police forces entered the al-Aqsa Mosque plaza at the Temple Mount on Sunday morning after dozens of Arab youths who barricaded themselves in the mosque on Saturday night began hurling stones at passersby entering the Temple Mount compound.
A Border Guard officer was lightly injured in the head by stones hurled in the Old City's alleys. He received medical treatment on site and resumed his activity.
Sources in the mosque reported that at least eight worshippers were hurt by tear gas. According to the Palestinians, hundreds of policemen encircled the mosque, demanding that the youths evacuate themselves.
The police reported that some 30 Arab youths had barricaded themselves inside the mosques and that efforts made by the Waqf (the council managing Muslim sites) to remove them had failed. Police entered the mount's plaza following the stone throwing and closed its gates, and the youths fled into the mosque.
The police then opened the mount's gates to worshippers, but restricted entrance to the site to male worshippers with Israeli identity cards over the age of 50 and to female worshippers of all ages.
The mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority condemned the police forces' entry to the mosque compound, which he said was aimed at allowing extremists to enter the area. He warned against the serious implications of the police's entry.
Waqf sources said that Jewish worshippers had entered the compound and were protected by the police. A Jerusalem Police official strongly denied the claim, saying that "this is a lie. Some 1,000 visitors have entered the Temple Mount compound since the morning hours, both Jews and non-Jews."
Visits to the site continue as usual, although stones are occasionally being thrown from the mosques towards the police forces stationed at the entrances.
Clashes in Old City streets
Stones were occasionally thrown at police officers in the alleys of the Old City, including near the Antonia Fortress, which is one of the entrances to the Temple Mount. There were no reports of injuries. One suspect was detained for questioning.
Some 100 girls who attempted to launch a protest march in the Sultan Suleiman area in east Jerusalem were stopped by the police.
It is estimated that Sunday's events at the Temple Mount come following the tension that arose over Israel's decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem to its list of national heritage sites.
Members of the Waqf and various Islamic organizations, including the Islamic Movement, urged Muslims over the weekend to flock to the Temple Mount, claiming that "radical Jewish organizations have called on their followers to arrive at the mount today and on Tuesday in an attempt to lay the cornerstone for the temple."
The Islamic organizations also called on Muslims to be on high alert around March 16, when they said extreme Jewish organizations were planning to mark the global day for the temple's reconstruction.
Ali Waked contributed to this report