JERUSALEM, Oct 25 – Clashes erupted on Sunday between police and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the latest violence to shake Jerusalem’s flashpoint site holy to Muslims and Jews.
Police said they entered the compound in the morning after Palestinian demonstrators threw stones at visitors to the holy site, known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Once inside, police themselves came under stone attack and had to wade through oil that Palestinians had spilled in an an effort to make them slip and fall, said public radio.
Firing stun grenades to break up the protests, the police left the site after less than an hour and closed access to both visitors and the Muslim faithful, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Twelve demonstrators were arrested, he said.
Witnesses said that some 100 Palestinians remained inside the compound.
Police had early Sunday deployed extra troops after calls for demonstrations around the holy site that has been the scene of clashes over the past several months.
"We reinforced patrols in the Old City to avoid any disturbances after calls among Palestinians and Israeli Arabs to come demonstrate in so-called defence of the Temple Mount," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
The Palestinian calls for demonstrations came amid rumours that rightwing Jewish activists were planning to gather at the compound, the site of the holiest place in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam, radio reported.
The rumours circulated after calls by an extreme rightwing Jewish group, Organisation for the Defence of Human Rights on the Temple Mount, called on Jews to gather at the mosque compound as well as the adjacent Western Wall, Judaism’s top pilgrimage site.
Sunday’s incidents marked the latest violence to shake the holy site, where any perceived change in the status quo has often led to outbreaks of deadly clashes.
Tensions over the compound exploded into violence on September 27, when Palestinians hurled rocks at a group of visitors whom they suspected of being rightwing Jewish extremists.
Police, who responded with stun grenades, said the group was made up of French tourists.
The incident came in the midst of a month in which Jews mark three of their most important holidays and fueled suspicions among Palestinians that Jewish worshippers would try to pray at the revered site during this period.
In September 2000, the second Palestinian uprising or intifada, erupted after Ariel Sharon, a rightwing politician who went on to become Israel’s prime minister, visited the site.