Israeli police mobilized at a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem Wednesday, employing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a riotous protest formed by Palestinian Muslims, who were attempting to block Jews from entering the compound.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the unruly mob threw stones and firecrackers from atop the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. To Muslims, The Temple Mount is known as the "Noble Sanctuary" and is regarded as Islam's third-holiest site. Israel captured the compound along with the rest of east Jerusalem from Jordan during a 1967 war, and skirmishes still occur at the site.
Jews typically worship at the Western Wall, and while Israel allows them to climb the Temple Mount for visits, they aren't permitted to pray at the site. The riot started when some Islamic worshippers barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque to "defend" the site from Jewish groups, according to Sheikh Azzam Tamimi, head of the Waqf, the Islamic authority that manages the Temple Mount. Jewish pilgrimages at times foster rumors that Israel is planning to take over the site.
Here is some raw footage of the situation in Jerusalem as it escalated:
Tamimi commented that roughly 30 people suffered from tear gas inhalation or had been hit by rubber-coated bullets, though none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
Jews historically gather at the Western Wall during the Passover holiday, and police restricted access to the adjacent Temple Mount after Wednesday's clash. Jews see the compound as the site where the two biblical Jewish Temples stood, and believe that one day a third Temple will be constructed. Muslims on the other hand believe that the golden dome of the shrine, called Dome of the Rock, holds the rock where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The site has been the center of religious and territorial conflict between Israel and its surrounding Arab neighbors.
— Temple Institute (@TempleInstitute) April 16, 2014
Tensions in the area had already been rising due to the recent shooting of an Israeli police officer who was en route to celebrate the Passover holiday with his family in the West Bank.
Image via Wikimedia Commons