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Police arrest 18 at Jerusalem holy site

Israeli police scuffle with Palestinian men in Jerusalem's old city.
Israeli police scuffle with Palestinian men in Jerusalem's old city.
  • Police use tear gas to quell rioters at Jerusalem's holiest site
  • Muslim leaders had urged people to defend site against "Jewish conquest"
  • Site has been focus of violence in recent years
  • Temple Mount
  • Jerusalem
  • Israel

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Palestinians and Israeli police engaged in a standoff for more than five hours at Jerusalem's holiest site Sunday, with police storming the site twice.

Eighteen people were arrested, and nine police officers were slightly injured, police said. About 25 Palestinians were hurt, with mild to moderate injuries, Palestinian medical sources said.

Israeli police entered the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif, after Muslim youths threw stones at security forces, a police spokesman said.

It took three hours of negotiations between Palestinians and police -- including phone calls to the capitals of Jordan, Syria and Egypt -- before more than 200 Palestinians agreed to leave the al-Aqsa mosque in the compound, said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, who was in the mosque.

He denied that the Palestinians had done anything to provoke the Israeli response.

"There was not anything political, (any) incitement, just praying," he told CNN. "This is ongoing Israeli policy and practice to control the site militarily and to force people to get used to the Israeli control of the site."

Hadi is with the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs.

Officers deployed tear gas and arrested 12 people the first time they stormed the site.

An Israeli police spokesman said officers were deployed to the compound after receiving reports of disturbances. They dispersed stone-throwing rioters with stun grenades after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at them, police said.

Disturbances continued and police entered the compound a second time, again using stun grenades to break up "dozens" of rioters, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

Earlier in the weekend, police said they would beef up security in the area after Muslim leaders urged followers to defend it against "Jewish conquest," Israel Radio reported.

The site has been tense in recent weeks.

About 150 Palestinians clashed with police on October 4 after authorities closed the area to Muslim worshippers and visitors.

Police said they did so to minimize the possibility of violence after calls in Palestinian media to "come and protect the Mount."

In 1996, dozens of people were killed in rioting related to the al-Aqsa mosque.

CNN's Shira Medding and Kareem Khadder contributed to this report.