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Clashes rock Jerusalem Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Muslim holiday

AFP , Sunday 27 Sep 2015
Aqsa
An Israeli policewoman prevents a Palestinian woman from entering the compound which houses al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City September 13, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
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Clashes broke out between masked Palestinians and Israeli security forces at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque on Sunday, the last day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, police said.

An Israeli police statement said young Palestinians "threw stones and fireworks at police and border police forces," who responded with "riot dispersal means".

Calm returned to the compound later in the morning and most police had withdrawn but Israeli Arab activists remained inside, AFP correspondents reported.

Palestinians have been alarmed by an increase in visits by Jews and fear rules governing the compound will be changed.

Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray to avoid provoking tensions.

Visits by Jews were stopped on Sunday and age restrictions on Muslim men entering the compound lifted.

But recent weeks have seen a series of Jewish holidays during which there has been an uptick in visits by Jews that have sparked repeated clashes.

The radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee (HAMC), which represents Palestinian communities in Israel, had urged Muslims to go to the compound to defend it.

AFP correspondents saw around 150 people at the compound sporting green Islamic Movement caps.

"We're going to stay here for the whole day, we want to prevent the Jews from attacking Al-Aqsa," an Arab Israeli woman who gave her name as Hala told AFP.

Several Arab members of the Israeli parliament were also present at the compound.

Islamic Movement official Sheikh Qairi Eskender said: "We're afraid they want to divide the Aqsa compound, because the Jewish extremists want to take control of Al-Aqsa."

"Our goal today is to prevent Al-Aqsa from being tarnished by their visits," Eskender told AFP.

"In the coming days, we'll have people staying here."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that there will be no change to the rules governing the compound despite the views of some hardliners within his governing coalition.

Israeli violations at the site are a major source of anger for Palestinians.

Jewish settlers and Israeli politicians have recently stormed Al-Aqsa mosque and clashed with Palestinians on a regular basis.

Muslims consider Al-Aqsa mosque the world's third holiest site.

Israelis refer to the area that encompasses Al-Aqsa mosque as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 war. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it asits capital – a declaration not recognised by the international community.

* The story was edited by Ahram online. 

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