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Israeli police and Palestinians clash at Al-Aqsa Mosque

May 21, 2021

Protesters have thrown stones and soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas amid unrest around the holy site in Jerusalem. It comes just hours after Israel and Hamas agreed a cease-fire.

Palestinian protesters run for cover amid clashes with Israeli security forces at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque
Image: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday.

The unrest occured after Friday prayers at the mosque compound, just hours after an Egypt-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hamas came into effect in Gaza after almost two weeks of fighting.

Israeli police hurled stun grenades towards Palestinians who threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at officers on standby outside the mosque.

Israeli police also fired stun grenades at a group of Palestinians marching through the compound grounds. 

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said stones were thrown at officers who were at one of the gates on patrol.

"Hundreds of people threw rocks and petrol bombs at police officers who responded at the scene and began dispersing the rioters," Rosenfeld said in a statement.

"Units responded and entered the Temple Mount area. They are dealing with these disturbances in order to contain the situation... Police units are at the scene," he said, using the Jewish Temple Mount name for the site.

At noon, thousands of Palestinians gathered in the compound surrounding the mosque for Friday prayers. Some then stayed on, cheering and waving Palestinian flags following news of the truce.

Clashes follow soon after Gaza truce

The latest violence in Jerusalem came on the first day of the cease-fire brokered to halt fighting in Gaza.

Friday's cease-fire was still holding as clashes took place at the mosque compound.

The confrontations died down within about an hour, with Israeli police retreating to positions at the compound's gates. There were no rockets fired from Gaza nor Israeli strikes at the densely populated Palestinian enclave, despite the tensions in Jerusalem. 

In Gaza, however, five more bodies were pulled from the rubble, taking the death toll to 243.

Clashes between police and protesters at the mosque compound had been a key factor in starting the conlifct between Hamas and the Israeli military.

Both Palestinian and Israeli sides warned earlier that the cease-fire would be lifted should the other side not stick to the agreement.

A spokesperson for the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas, said on the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa television channel: "The decision to resume rocket attacks on Israel remains an option."

Soon after the cease-fire took effect, thousands had poured onto streets  in the Gaza Strip to celebrate by lighting fireworks. 

Relief in Gaza and Israel, damaged trust in mixed cities

Netanyahu, Hamas both defiant amid truce

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday described Israel's 11-day bombardment of Palestinian armed groups in Gaza as an "exceptional success." 

"We achieved our goals in the operation," Netanyahu said, adding that "the public doesn't know everything" about Israel's gains in the operation "and neither does Hamas."

Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya called the Gaza cease-fire "a victory'' for
the militant group.

Al-Hayya claims Israel failed to destroy Hamas' military infrastructure, and says the group's fighters are still "striding proudly'' in the underground tunnels.

mvb/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)