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Palestinians met with tear gas upon return to al-Aqsa Mosque following Israel security reversal

Palestinians returned to a key holy site in Jerusalem for the first time in two weeks after Israel removed controversial security apparatus, only to be met with tear gas, stun grenades and sound bombs

28 July 2017, 8:16am
Palestinian paramedics carry an injured woman on a stretcher past the Dome of the Rock, after clashes broke out inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City
Palestinian paramedics carry an injured woman on a stretcher past the Dome of the Rock, after clashes broke out inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City
More than 100 Palestinians have been injured as Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and sound bombs at worshippers who returned to Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the first time in nearly two weeks.

As the call to prayer sounded from al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday, thousands of men, women and children flocked to the compound after, after Israel removed surveillance equipment and other obstacles from the gates leading to the holy site following days of Palestinian street protests over the devices.

Palestinians had been boycotting entry to the site while the additional security measures – introduced after three Israeli Arabs killed two Israeli police officers at an entrance to the compound on 14 July – remained in place.

In a surprise reversal, the extra security – including barriers and infrastructure for new cameras – were removed by workers in the early hours of Thursday following the dismantling of metal detectors earlier this week, amid fears of unrest during what were expected to be large protests around Friday prayers.

However, one of the mosque’s main entrances, Bab Hutta, remained closed by Israeli forces and Palestinians refused to enter until all Israeli-imposed measures were removed from the gates.

The morning scenes of jubilation inside one of the city’s most revered sites turned to scenes of chaos in the evening as Israeli security forces followed the worshippers in from the Bab Hutta gate and fired stun grenades, sound bombs and tear gas.

Israeli forces only allowed worshippers to enter at the last moment, heightening tensions further by opening and closing the gate several times. It was at this point that the Israeli forces dispersed the crowd with stun grenades. The confrontations continued inside the mosque compound itself where police fired tear gas and rubber bullets as Palestinians threw stones inside the site that is holy to Muslims and Jews.

Israeli police said they responded after stones were thrown at officers at the gates to the site. 

The Palestinian Red Crescent said over 100 Palestinians were hurt, including some by rubber bullets and beatings. It said several people suffered broken bones.