Israeli police have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and sound grenades to clear Palestinian worshippers from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, the flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Thousands of Palestinians gathered at the mosque for the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha on Sunday.
The day coincided with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, which typically sees an increase in Jewish visitors to the holy site.
A large numbers of Palestinians had gathered at the gates of the compound following reports that the police would allow Jewish visitors to enter the site.
Facing off with police in the packed compound outside Islam’s third-holiest site, Palestinians chanted: “With our soul and blood, we will redeem you, Aqsa.”
Jews are barred from praying at the compound under a long-standing arrangement between Israel and Muslim authorities.
In recent years, Israeli religious nationalists have stepped up visits to the site to challenge the arrangement, while the Palestinians view it as a provocation and fear Israel intends to take over the site.
Israel views all of Jerusalem as its unified capital, while the Palestinians want the occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Reporting from East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett said the temperature at the site had been rising for some time.
“The gate was opened, but no non-Muslims were allowed in. There was this big standoff and then we saw the security forces move in to clear that standoff,” Fawcett said.
“That’s when we saw the police use rubber bullets, tear gas and sound grenades,” he said, adding that at least 14 people were wounded.
“There is a big political movement from the far right in Israeli politics to get more access to the area, and potentially to pray there in the future, and that is what is behind the tension,” said Fawcett.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), accused Israel of provoking religious and political tension.
“The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound by Israeli occupation forces this Eid morning is an act of recklessness and aggression,” she said in a statement.
The compound is situated in a part of East Jerusalem occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war in a move that has not won international recognition.
Al Jazeera and news agencies