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Flash Grenades Thrown as Israeli Police Clash With Protesters at al-Aqsa Mosque Holy Site

Palestinian protesters barricaded themselves inside the building in the Old City of Jerusalem in an attempt to stop Jewish worshippers from entering.

by Gillian Mohney
Jul 26 2015, 3:00pm

Photo via la Police israelienne /EPA

Flash grenades exploded at the al-Aqsa Mosque — one of the holiest sites in Islam — after Palestinian protesters clashed with police and barricaded themselves inside the building in the Old City of Jerusalem in an attempt to stop Jewish worshippers from entering.

Video recorded from inside the mosque shows masked protesters hurling objects as explosions erupt below. Police said that protesters threw rocks and fireworks, prompting authorities to briefly enter the mosque and lock the unruly crowd inside.

"Masked rioters fled into the mosque and started to throw stones and blocks at police from inside al-Aqsa mosque," police said in a statement. "They threw fireworks directly at police… With the aim of preventing further injury to police… forces entered a number of meters inside and closed the doors to the mosque with the rioters inside, restoring order."

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Photos released by police after the clashes subsided showed rocks and debris coating the rugs used for prayer in the mosque. Outside, security forces were seen interacting with angry Palestinians who were attempting to reach the mosque.

A spokesman for the Israeli police said on Twitter that four officers had "light" injuries from the clashes.

An AFP photographer reported that approximately 300 Israeli security forces entered the compound to deal with a couple hundred Palestinian worshippers.

The clashes came as Jews attempted to enter the mosque in honor of Tisha B'av, a day that marks the destruction of ancient Hebrew temples. Palestinian worshippers were angry at the Jewish arrivals, which they consider intrusions, according to AFP. Jewish worshippers are not allowed to pray at the site.

Officials at the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Jewish visits were "provocative," according to AFP.

The clash at the holy site, called the Temple Mount by Jews and the Noble Sanctuary by Muslims, set off protests and unrest in streets in the surrounding area, with some protesters chanting "Allahu Akbar" and police breaking out stun grenades.

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Among those angered by the violence was Khaled Tuffaha, a 46-year-old Palestinian shop owner, who told the AFP that the protesters were willing to give their lives.

"We are ready to die," Tuffaha told the AFP. "Everybody is ready to die."

A Jewish man reportedly attempted to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque compound later wearing phylacteries small boxes containing sacred texts, despite warnings that he must remove the religious objects before entering the area. Per the AFP, he refused to leave and bite a policeman who tried to pry him from a stairwell railing

The Associated Press contributed to this article. 

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