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Calm restored at holy site in Jerusalem after 150 hurt in clashes

By Ashley Williams
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Calm restored at holy site in Jerusalem after 150 hurt in clashes
Palestinians protest in support of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. More than 100 people were wounded in the violence which came after three tense weeks of deadly violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

April 15 (UPI) -- Calm returned by midday Friday after more than 150 people were injured in clashes between Israeli riot police and Palestinians earlier Friday in Jerusalem.

The six-hour clash at the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem happened when the two sides clashed during a Palestinian approach to the compound.

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The violent clash happened during a rare convergence of religious holidays for Christians, Jews and Muslims as they mark Easter, Passover and Ramadan.

Called Temple Mount by Jews, the compound is a religious site that's sacred to both Israelis and Palestinians and includes the Al-Aqsa mosque. A rumor had reportedly spread on social media that Jewish hard-liners were going to somehow breach the mosque, leading to calls to defend it.

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"The expulsion of the worshipers by force, repression and batons in preparation for the incursions of the Jewish extremists will ignite the fire of the religious war for which the Palestinians alone will not pay the price," the Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement.

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The mosque is one of the holiest sites in Islam. It's on a site administered by the Waqf, an Islamic trust that coordinates with Israeli security on the site.

Authorities said that dozens of Palestinians carrying flags of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority made their way toward the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Temple Mount area and, with rocks and other items, began attacking Israeli security forces.

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Officials said they also set off fireworks after prayers ended early Friday and some barricaded themselves inside. Hundreds of Palestinians had gathered at the site for Friday prayers during the month of Ramadan.

Dozens of people were hurt in the clashes between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police. Friday's was the most significant violence at the mosque in almost a year.

A number of Palestinians were arrested and noon prayers for the second Friday of Ramadan continued as planned.

Forces entered the compound to restore order only after prayers had ended and Palestinians continued throwing rocks, a senior official said.

Israeli security forces watch Palestinian Muslims walk to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel, on April 8. Clashes erupted there on Friday, which injured more than 150 Palestinians. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
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Amid calls by Jewish groups to enter Temple Mount on Friday for a Passover sacrifice, thousands of Palestinians had stayed at the mosque the night before.

The Temple Mount has often been a site of clashes over the years. Last year, clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant group Hamas there led to 11 days of fighting in Gaza. An Israeli bombing campaign killed more than 230 Palestinians, and Palestinian attacks killed at least a dozen Israelis.

United Arab List Party Chairman Mansour Abbas condemned Israeli police for their response to the clashes on Friday, saying that the police operation violated the sanctity of the Temple Mount, according to Israel National News.

Israeli security minister Omer Bar-Lev said Israel has "no interest in the Temple Mount becoming an epicenter of violence that will hurt both Muslim worshipers there and Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall," according to Haaretz.

Friday's clashes prompted Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to schedule an emergency security meeting.

The Temple Mount was the site of clashes in mid-2019 when Israeli police and Jewish nationalists entered the compound on Jerusalem Day, which celebrates Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem at the end of the Six-Day War in 1967. It was the first time in decades that Israelis entered the site during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Later that year, dozens of Muslims and multiple police officers were injured in a similar clash.

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