Clashes at Mosque Hours Prior to Jewish New Year

Muslims have clashed with police in Israel at the flashpoint Jerusalem Al-Aqsa mosque compound Sunday just hours prior to the start of the New Year. This is the most recent violence over the access to this site that is sacred to both the faiths.

Mahmud Abbas the Palestinian President condemned what he said was an attack by Israeli police at the site, while Gilad Erdan the Public Security Minister from Israel said the Muslim rioters made the complex into a battlefield.

Muslims, who witnessed the incident, said police had entered the mosque, which is considered the third holiest site of Islam and caused great damage.

Police said that they had closed the mosque doors to lock rioters inside that had been throwing fireworks, stones and other different objects.

This is not the first time the tactic has been used to help restore calm. According Israeli police the rioters barricaded themselves inside the mosque overnight with the goal of disrupting visits by any Jews ahead of the celebration of New Years on Sunday evening.

Authorities said they had decided to raid the mosque to ensure that the visits would be held as usual.

The protesters then retreated to the interior of the mosque and were targeting police from that point.

A witness, who is Muslim, accused the police of entering the mosque further than was necessary to close doors, which caused damage, saying that prayer mats had been partially burned.

Calm returned to the mosque later said police although clashes were continuing outside in alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem with authorities firing stun grenades and tear gas.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that more than 20 people had required treatment at a hospital.

Non-Muslims can visit the compound, however, Jews are forbidden from any prayer or from displaying national symbols for the fear of triggering tensions with the worshippers who are Muslim.

Muslims fear that Israel will look to change the rules governing this site with Jewish groups from the far right pushing for additional access and even efforts by the fringe organizations to erect another Temple.

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