Israeli police storm Jerusalem holy site after rock-throwing by Palestinians

Israeli police moving in at Jerusalem holy site
Israeli police clash with Palestinian protesters at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday.
(Mahmoud Illean / Associated Press)

Israeli police in riot gear stormed a Jerusalem holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims on Friday after Palestinian youths hurled stones toward officers at a gate.

The renewed violence at the site came despite Israel temporarily halting Jewish visits, which are seen by the Palestinians as a provocation. Medics said more than two dozen Palestinians were wounded.

Tens of thousands of worshipers took part in the main Friday prayers at midday, which were held as planned without reports of violence.


The Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City is the third-holiest site in Islam. The sprawling esplanade on which it is built is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of two Jewish temples in antiquity. It lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and clashes there have often ignited violence elsewhere.

Palestinians and Israeli police have regularly confronted each other at the site over the last week at a time of heightened tensions following a string of deadly attacks inside Israel and arrests made during raids in the occupied West Bank. Three rockets have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.

The series of recent events have raised fears of a repeat of last year, when protests and violence in Jerusalem helped ignite an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas and communal violence in Israel’s mixed cities.

The Israel-Hamas war has helped catalyze a newfound sense of Palestinian solidarity that could mark a new moment in the Middle East, activists say.

June 8, 2021

Palestinian youths hurled stones toward police at a gate leading into the Al Aqsa compound, according to two Palestinian witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns. The police, in full riot gear, entered the compound, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Israeli police said the Palestinians, some carrying Hamas flags, had begun stockpiling stones and erecting crude fortifications before dawn. Police said that, after the rock-throwing began, they waited for early-morning prayers to finish before entering the compound.

Video showed the police firing at a group of journalists who were holding cameras and loudly identifying themselves as members of the press. Police wounded at least three Palestinian reporters with rubber bullets.


Some older Palestinians urged the youths to stop throwing rocks as dozens of young masked men hurled stones and fireworks at the police. A tree caught fire near the gate where the clashes began. Police said it was ignited by fireworks thrown by the Palestinians.

The law prohibits extending citizenship or even residency to Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens if they come from the occupied West Bank or Gaza.

March 11, 2022

The Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said at least 31 Palestinians were wounded, including 14 who were taken to hospitals. A policewoman was hit in the face by a rock and taken for medical treatment, police said.

The violence subsided later in the morning after dozens of Palestinians said they wanted to clean the area before the main weekly prayers at midday. Those prayers went ahead with some 150,000 worshipers attending, according to the Islamic endowment that administers the site.

After prayers, a small group of Palestinians waving Hamas flags marched in protest and tried to break into an empty police post inside the compound. The police used a drone to drop tear gas on them, sending crowds of people scattering.

Palestinians and neighboring Jordan, the custodian of the holy site, accuse Israel of violating longstanding arrangements by allowing increasingly large numbers of Jews to visit the site under police escort.

A long-standing prohibition on Jews praying at the site has eroded in recent years, fueling fears among Palestinians that Israel plans to take over the site or partition it.

Israel says it remains committed to the status quo and blames the violence on incitement by Hamas. It says its security forces are acting to remove rock-throwers to ensure freedom of worship for Jews and Muslims.

Visits by Jewish groups were halted beginning Friday for the last 10 days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as they have been in the past.

This year, Ramadan coincided with the weeklong Jewish Passover and Christian Easter holidays, with tens of thousands of people from all three faiths flocking to the Old City after the lifting of most coronavirus restrictions.