Israeli forces raid Al-Aqsa Mosque, over 60 Palestinians injured

Mosque authorities say Israeli police entered before dawn, after 7 Palestinians were killed since Wednesday.

Israeli police have raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, with medics saying at least 67 Palestinians have been injured in violence that followed before dawn on Friday.

The Islamic endowment that runs the site said Israeli police entered in force before dawn, as thousands of worshippers were gathered at the mosque for early morning prayers.

Videos circulating online showed Palestinians throwing rocks and police firing tear gas and stun grenades. Others showed worshippers barricading themselves inside the mosque amid what appeared to be clouds of tear gas.

The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said it evacuated at least 67 wounded people to hospitals. The endowment said one of the guards at the site was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, Israeli forces hindered the arrival of ambulances and paramedics from reaching the mosque, as Palestinian media said that dozens of injured worshippers remained trapped inside the compound.

Israeli police said they entered the compound, the third holiest site in Islam and revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, to break up a “violent” crowd that remained at the end of the morning prayers.

They said they went in “to disperse and push back” the crowd after a group of Palestinians began throwing rocks towards the nearby Jewish prayer space of the Western Wall.

Reporting from Damascus Gate, Al Jazeera’s Najwan al-Samri said Israeli police forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound without pretext and assaulted worshipers near the Qibly prayer hall following the morning prayer.

She added that the escalation came as far-right Jewish groups called or organising mass stormings of Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Jewish Passover holiday and to offer animal sacrifices in its courtyards.

Tensions have escalated in recent weeks. Israel has been carrying out arrests and military raids in the illegally occupied West Bank, in the wake of a series of deadly attacks by Palestinians inside Israel, setting off clashes in which several Palestinians have been killed, including seven since Wednesday.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians were expected to gather at Al-Aqsa for Friday prayers, as Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan.

Weeks of protests and raids on Al-Aqsa during Ramadan last year escalated into an 11-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip.

The war led to the deaths of at least 232 Palestinians, as well as 12 Israelis, and significant destruction to the already impoverished territory.

Ramadan this year coincides with the Jewish Passover holiday and Christian holy week, bringing thousands of pilgrims and other visitors to Jerusalem.

Far-right Jewish groups called or organising mass stormings of Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Jewish Passover holiday and to offer animal sacrifices in its courtyards [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP] 

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