News / Middle East

Top Palestinian Cleric, Israel Trade Barbs

A Palestinian woman looks on as Israeli policemen prevent people from entering the compound which houses al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City April 16, 2014.
A Palestinian woman looks on as Israeli policemen prevent people from entering the compound which houses al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City April 16, 2014.
Reuters
— The most senior Islamic cleric in Jerusalem said on Sunday Israeli police hurled stun grenades into al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, to quell the latest in a string of Palestinian protests at the politically sensitive holy site.

Israeli police denied the allegation, saying officers threw the non-lethal devices, which emit a loud noise, on a plaza outside the mosque after protesters threw rocks and firecrackers at them.

The demonstrators, who have confronted police for the past four days in a bid to stop Israeli and foreign visitors from entering the holy compound, then retreated into al-Aqsa, a police spokesman said.

Tensions at the site run high during Jewish holidays - Jews are now celebrating Passover - when Palestinians are on alert against any attempt by Jews to pray on the compound in defiance of a de facto Israeli government ban on such worship.

Five Palestinians and two police officers were reported injured in Sunday's face-off at the complex revered by Jews as Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Police said they arrested 16 Palestinians during the latest protests.

Israeli security forces, while operating on the holy compound, shy away from entering al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock shrine at the complex situated in the walled Old City of Jerusalem.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank, in the 1967 Middle East war.

Grand Mufti Mohammed Hussein said he was present at Sunday's protests and said police “threw the sound bombs into the [al-Aqsa] mosque itself.”

Hussein did not say how many grenades landed inside the mosque.

He condemned the incident as “an unacceptable and very dangerous escalation.”

Grenade assault denied

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld denied grenades were thrown inside the mosque saying Arab protesters had “retreated into the mosque where they knew we would not enter.”

Hussein said Israeli police also fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters, but only outside the mosque, injuring five people. Rosenfeld denied any weapons were discharged other than the stun grenades.

Palestinian concerns have been heightened because allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among the most vocal advocates of Jewish prayer at the 25-acre complex, which also houses the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven.

A visit in 2000 to the holy site by then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon after peace talks broke down was followed by a five-year-long Palestinian uprising.

Tensions at the holy site coincided with a crisis in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, at risk of collapse unless negotiators can agree to extend their talks beyond an April 29 deadline set by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Sovereignty over the compound is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem the capital of the state they aim to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel, citing historical and biblical links, regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, a claim that is not recognized internationally.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid