At least three people disguised as Christian pilgrims have been detained after detonating fireworks in the Basilica of the Annunciation in the Israeli town of Nazareth.

Police officials said Friday Haim Habibi and his wife entered the church with an unidentified third person and set off the explosions. Police say he has a history of mental illness.

Police struggled to reach the church through thousands of protesters angry over the incident.

Israeli police arrived in large numbers to break up the disturbance. Protesters torched a police vehicle and broke the windows of an ambulance that was heading to the church, forcing it to turn away.

At least seven people were injured in the scuffles.

The Basilica is built at the site of the Annunciation, where Christians believe the archangel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that God had chosen her to bear his son, Jesus.

Some information for this report was provided by AP .