01:08 - Source: CNN
Palestinians, Israeli police clash at Jerusalem holy site

Story highlights

Israeli police, Arab youths clash at holy site ahead of Jewish New Year

Each side condemns the other

Jerusalem CNN  — 

Clashes between Arab youths and Israeli police broke out Sunday at one of the holiest sites in the world for both Muslims and Jews.

The confrontation at the al-Aqsa mosque complex in Jerusalem began just hours before the start of the Jewish New Year.

Israeli police said they received intelligence on the eve of Rosh Hashanah that masked demonstrators were barricading themselves inside the mosque, while erecting barriers outside to prevent anyone from entering.

Israeli officers said that “rioters” hurled rocks and fireworks at them in an attempt to keep them at bay, but the confrontation spilled from inside out onto the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, where it went on for hours.

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an told a different story reporting that Israeli forces “stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound shortly after dawn prayer, firing rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades, leading to the injury of several worshipers.”

Increased tension

The al-Aqsa complex is one of the holiest sites in the world for Muslims, who call it al-Haram al-Sharif, which means the Noble Sanctuary.

But it is also the holiest site in the world for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount, and many Muslims see Jewish prayers in the complex as a provocation.

It is one of the greatest sources of tension in the Old City of Jerusalem, but according to Ma’an, those tensions have been running even higher this week “in the wake of Israel’s decision to outlaw two Muslim groups that seek to “protect” the compound against groups of Jewish worshipers.”

‘Rethink arrangements’

Responses to Sunday’s incident from officials on both sides reflect the disparateness and tension surrounding the holy site.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the police action and “the aggression of the Israeli storming of al-Aqsa this morning, with troops and occupation police,” according to Haaretz.

“It is a duty and a right to take action against lawbreakers to allow freedom of worship in this holy place,” countered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We will act firmly against stone-throwers, Molotov cocktails, and pipe bomb throwers or those who use any other means.”

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said it “requires all of us to think about the arrangements that are in place there.”

CNN’s Michael Schwartz and Salim Essaid contributed to this report