JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) — Israeli police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and wastewater canons Monday to disperse Palestinian stone-throwers at a gate to Jerusalem’s Old City, a frequent flashpoint from which tensions rapidly escalated in the past.
Palestinian medics said 33 Palestinians were injured, including an 11-year-old girl hit in the face by a stun grenade. Police detained 20 Palestinians and said four police officers were also hurt.
The confrontation erupted at the Damascus Gate as large crowds streamed through the arched passage toward the Old City’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest shrine. Worshippers marked what Muslim faithful believe is Prophet Mohammad’s ascension to heaven.
It was not immediately clear what sparked Monday’s clashes. The area around the Damascus Gate has been a scene of confrontations in the past, including during last year’s holy month of Ramadan when devout Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
At the time, police prevented Palestinians from gathering at Damascus Gate after breaking their daily fast, as was customary. Nightly clashes erupted, with tensions rapidly spreading and triggering a two-week war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. Ramadan, a time of heightened religious fervor, is to start this year at the beginning of April.
Muslim religious officers administering the Al-Aqsa Mosque area estimated that about 90,000 worshipers attended Monday’s holiday. The raised platform is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, site of their biblical temple. The compound’s Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray.
The Old City is located in east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two areas. The Palestinians seek both areas as parts of a future independent state.