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Clashes erupt at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque on final Friday of Ramadan

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Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque early Friday injured 12 people on Friday, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. The latest outbreak of violence in Islam’s third holiest site came on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israeli police said Palestinians inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound began hurling stones and fireworks  around dawn in the direction of a heavily guarded gate that leads to the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray. The police advanced into the compound, firing rubber-coated bullets.

“We will continue to act decisively against rioters and outlaws for public safety and security,” the police said in a statement.

The violence ended about an hour later after other Palestinians in the compound intervened, convincing the stone throwers and the police to pull back. The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said it treated 12 people for injuries.

But tensions remain high at the site in the heart of Jerusalem’s old, walled city, part of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. 

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam. It is built on a hilltop that is the most sacred site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the Jewish temples in antiquity. It has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Over the past two weeks, more than 250 Palestinians have been injured in clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound. The fresh unrest came as Muslims mark the final Friday in the holy month of Ramadan, which is due to end early next week. 

Israeli authorities accuse the Hamas militant group ruling Gaza of inciting violence and say security forces were forced to intervene to halt stone-throwing.

The Palestinians say the presence of Israeli police at the site, and regular visits by increasing numbers of nationalist and religious Jews, are a violation of decades-old informal arrangements governing the site. The visits were halted last week for the last 10 days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which concludes this weekend.

Tens of thousands of Muslims are expected to attend the main Friday prayers at midday. Earlier this week, an estimated 250,000 worshippers gathered at the site for Laylat al-Qadr, a night of intense prayers that marks the culmination of Ramadan, with no reports of violence.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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