More than 150 Palestinians have been injured and hundreds detained after Israeli police stormed Islam’s third holiest site, the Al-Aqsa mosque, on Friday April 15.
The eruption in violence comes during a rare convergence of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with Eastern and the Jewish celebration of Passover.
A few weeks earlier, Israeli Defense Forces had also launched a series of raids in the West Bank that killed 16 Palestinians – both civilians and militants – following a string of attacks over March and April by Palestinians, including two Islamic State members, an IS supporter and two Palestinian gunmen, that killed 14 Israeli civilians.
Rumors had since been circulating online that Jewish hard-liners were planning to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque over the weekend, leading to calls for Palestinians to defend the area, according to the New York Times.
The far-right Jewish group, Return to Temple Mount, contributed to tensions furhter by offering money to whoever would sacrifice a goat inside the mosque on Sunday, Al Jazeera reported.
On Friday April 15, Israeli police entered the mosque – also known as Temple Mount – at 5:30 am, when tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers had gathered for dawn prayers during the holy month of fasting.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter that police had entered the mosque to “disperse violent rioters desecrating the site and endangering the public.”
Israeli police said Palestinians had collected stones, wooden planks and other large objects and were setting off fireworks.
It said it had responded after a crowd started to throw rocks toward the West Wall, a Jewish holy site, according to the Guardian.
Police fired rubber-tipped bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at the people throwing stones.
Palestinian witnesses, however, said that Israeli police had moved deeper in the compound before prayers began and had fired the first shot.
Videos on social media showed Israeli police forces detaining Palestinian worshippers inside the mosque.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said 152 worshippers were injured from rubber bullets, stun grenades, and assaults from Friday clashes
A Palestinian prisoner’s rights group said more than 450 people were arrested by police, the New York Times reported.
Hamas, the Palestinian militant group in Gaza, has demanded their release, according to Reuters.
Israel has since released all but 100 of those detained, Palestinians said, according to Reuters.
Last year, more than 205 Palestinians were injured at the same site over the Ramadan weekend in Jerusalem after Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at Palestinian protesters demonstrating against Israeli plans to evict several Palestinian families from homes on territory claimed by Jewish settlers.