JERUSALEM, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City Sunday after police raided the compound amid reports of plans to attack Jews visiting the holy site.
Thousands of people are expected to visit Al-Aqsa, one of the most holy sites in the region for both Jews and Muslims, to pray at the Western Wall. The crowds are expected for the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, which starts Sunday at sundown.
Police raided the compound after receiving reports that Palestinians had plans to attack Jews going there to pray on one of the religion's most holy days.
"Police entered the site and masked protesters were throwing stones and fireworks at police," Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Guardian. "They were also being thrown from inside the mosque toward police. We sealed off the main gate and shut the door of the mosque."
Palestinian youths were planning to barricade themselves in the mosque, using bookcases, ropes, and metal bars to block the entrance, Ha'aretz reported. Police said they attempted to preempt the attacks by entering the compound around 6:45 a.m., clearing the youths.
Witnesses said the police entered Al-Aqsa firing rubber coated steel bullets and using stun guns as the youths threw rocks and pipes, which had been used to launch fireworks at them.
Moshe Yaalon, Israel's defense minister, last week barred Muslim guards at the site, called Mourabitoun. The guards volunteer to protect the site, Islam's third-holiest site, from Jewish attacks on Muslim worshippers.
Israel claims the guards instigate skirmishes with Israeli police and Jewish worshippers there to visit the Temple Mount and Western Wall, two of the holiest sites in Judaism.
The leaders of both the Al-Aqsa mosque and Western Wall spoke out on either side barring Muslims or Jews from the site, as Sheik Omar Kiswani, director of the mosque, rejected the "decision to ban Muslims from entering Al-Aqsa mosque compound."
"We call upon all Muslims to be present in Al-Aqsa," Kiswani said. "It is the home of all Muslims and their presence in this place would intensify their connection to this place."
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, head of the Western Wall, said the compound should be open to anybody who wants to visit.
"The Jewish way says we do not have a monopoly over god -- that's why this place is open to everyone," Rabinovitch said. "A holy place should not be closed for anyone, no matter what his religion is, or what his view on life is."