Israeli police sent reinforcements to East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex Friday amid ongoing clashes with Muslim worshipers, according to eyewitnesses.
“At least 50 additional policemen have entered the mosque compound within the last hour,” one eyewitness told Anadolu Agency.
“Meanwhile,” he added, “Israeli forces have sealed the gates of Al-Aqsa and prevented anyone from entering the mosque compound.”
A Palestinian official who works in the area said that “dozens” of Palestinians had been injured after Israeli forces entered the compound and began attacking worshipers.
In a statement, Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Jordan-run Religious Endowments Authority, said at least 60 soldiers had entered the holy site, “where they used teargas and stun grenades to disperse worshipers after Friday prayers”.
“Fifteen Palestinians have been injured, including three mosque guards,” he added.
According to al-Dibs, the Israeli authorities have sealed the compound’s Al-Qibali Mosque with iron chains and prevented Palestinian worshippers from entering the building.
Gaza-based resistance movement Hamas, for its part, condemned the “dangerous” provocations by Israel.
In a statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “These dangerous acts of terror are intended to target Al-Aqsa’s Muslim and Arab identity.”
Friday’s police incursion, he added, “reflects the racism and extremism of Israel’s occupation government”.
Barhoum attributed the escalations to “unjust U.S. resolutions in support of the racist Jewish state”.
In a separate statement, the Islamic Jihad movement declared: “What is happening at Al-Aqsa is a serious escalation; a planned aggression against the city of Jerusalem.”
Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), called on the international community and the Islamic world to prevent violations of the U.S.-backed Israeli forces against Masjid al-Aqsa and to provide international protection for the Palestinian people.
In a written statement, Eraket said that Israel should face trial in international courts due to its "systematic violations" against the Palestinian people and violations of international law.
Egypt’s Al-Azhar institution -- Islam's top Sunni religious authority -- also condemned Israel's attack.
"We condemn the ongoing violations of the Zionist occupation forces towards Masjid al-Aqsa and the barbaric attacks targeting the jamaah [community] in the masjid," it said in a written statement.
The statement also called on international organizations and human rights institutions to condemn Israel’s violations and to “fulfill their responsibilities” in supporting the rights of the Palestinian people.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the "Temple Mount", claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.
In late 2000, a visit to Al-Aqsa by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked a years-long popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians lost their lives.
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