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Palestinians, Israeli Police Clash at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque


Masked Palestinians secure the door of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, as they plan to remain inside to protect it in case of clashes, Sept. 27, 2015.

Masked Palestinians secure the door of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, as they plan to remain inside to protect it in case of clashes, Sept. 27, 2015.

Israeli riot police briefly clashed with Palestinian protesters at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound early Sunday, raising tensions ahead of a major Jewish holiday.

Young masked Palestinians "threw stones and fireworks at police and border police forces," who responded with "riot dispersal means," police said.

No injuries or arrests were reported following the altercations at the hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City that is revered by Jews and Muslims.

After the clashes on what was the last day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, Palestinian protesters prepared "to defend" the mosque during the eight-day Jewish Sukkot festival, stocking stones inside the shrine and planning to sleep in it.

Sukkot, which started at sunset, is expected to lead to an increase in Jewish visitors to the Al-Aqsa compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount. Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary and revere it as their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Under current rules, Jews can visit the site, but not pray there for fear it would create friction with Muslim worshippers.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews wait in line to check palm fronds to determine if they are ritually acceptable as one of the four items used as a symbol on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in Jerusalem, Sept. 24, 2015.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews wait in line to check palm fronds to determine if they are ritually acceptable as one of the four items used as a symbol on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in Jerusalem, Sept. 24, 2015.

Violence at the site has escalated recently because Muslims are upset by non-Muslim visitors and a push to allow Jewish prayer in the compound outside al-Aqsa.

Under current strictures on the site, Jews can visit it, but not pray there for fear it would create friction with Muslim worshipers.

Calls by a group of religious Jews to visit the site on the eve of the Jewish New Year have sparked rumors among Palestinians that Israel was planning to disrupt the delicate status quo governing the site and take it over.

Rumors, restrictions

These rumors, coupled with some Israeli restrictions on Muslim access to the mosque, fueled the outbreak of violence two weeks ago. Israel denies having any plans to change the status quo. But its actions have drawn criticism from Jordan, a key Arab ally, and other Arab countries.

The Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement, a small group that seeks the construction of a new Jewish Temple on the site of the mosque, has called for a march to the compound on Wednesday.

In several days of clashes, Muslim protesters barricaded themselves inside the mosque while hurling stones and fireworks at police. The unrest spread to Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, where Palestinian protesters hurled stones at police and Israeli motorists.

A Palestinian woman affected by tear gas is evacuated by medics during clashes between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli police on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, Sept. 15, 20

A Palestinian woman affected by tear gas is evacuated by medics during clashes between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli police on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, Sept. 15, 20

In one incident, an Israeli motorist was killed over the New Year holiday after his car was pelted with stones.

Israeli police have arrested four Palestinian teenagers late Saturday on suspicion of the stoning of the Jewish Rosh Hashanah's car on September 13 that caused a fatal crash and helped trigger new measures targeting stone-throwers.

Harsher measures

Israel has responded last week by approving harsher measures that would loosen the rules of engagement for police to respond to stone throwers.

Palestine Liberation Organization secretary general Saeb Erekat criticized the measures, saying "the Israeli government continues to incite against Palestinian lives, with a culture of hate that dehumanizes a whole nation."

Tensions have been high in the West Bank and Jerusalem after recent clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and with the convergence last week of the Jewish Yom Kippur and Muslim Eid al-Adha holidays.

In recent days, Israel has barred Jewish visits to the compound and lifted all restrictions on Muslim worshipers to ease tension because of the current Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.

Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.

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