Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police at one of the holiest sites for both Muslims and Jews. The violence took place on a day important to believers in both religions.
Israeli police stepped in to disperse Palestinians gathered at Jerusalem's Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary site at the start of the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha on Sunday, with several people injured in the confrontations.
The Red Crescent reported dozens of Palestinians were wounded, at least 15 of whom were taken to hospitals for treatment, while Israeli police said four officers were wounded as Palestinian protesters hurled stones and other objects at security forces.
Media reported that police employed stun grenades to evacuate the site.
Police said they started to disperse the crowds after Muslim visitors shouted nationalist slogans and began rioting.
Sacred and contentious
The site — known as Temple Mount to Jews and as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims — has often been a flashpoint for clashes. The area had been closed to non-Muslim visitors, including Jews, before the clashes erupted, with police fearing violence owing to the coincidence of the start of the Muslim festival with the Jewish fast day of Tisha B'Av.
Tisha B'Av marks the destruction of the two Jewish temples that once stood there, the last of which was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans. The site is now home to the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.
Eid Al-Adha, or Festival of the Sacrifice, is a major holiday celebrated by Muslims each year.
Also on Sunday, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man who had opened fire on Israeli forces at the border with the Gaza Strip. On Saturday, four Palestinians were shot dead in a similar incident.
Police initially barred Jews from visiting the site on Sunday in a bid to ease tensions. Muslims still feared Jewish visits would be allowed, so they protested.
Following criticism from far-right politicians, police opened the site to Jews, sparking further clashes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he decided in advance "in consultation with all the security bodies" to allow Jewish visits.
This year, as every year, Jews will go up to the Temple Mount on Tisha B'av, even when it is a Muslim holiday," he said in a video clip distributed to media.
"The question was not whether they would go up but how to manage it in the best way for public security and that is exactly what we did."
Palestinian worshipers, blocked from entering after the clashes, gathered outside and chanted "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is greatest" in Arabic) and "With my soul and my blood, I will defend Al-Aqsa."
kw,tj/amp (Reuters, dpa)