JERUSALEM: Israeli police faced off with Palestinians holed up inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque on Sunday as hundreds of Jews visited the holy compound ahead of a contentious Jewish nationalist march through the Old City.

The annual Jerusalem procession celebrates Israel’s capture of the Old City in the 1967 Middle East war and draws thousands of cheering, chanting participants to its narrow, stone streets.

Palestinian factions have warned that the flag-waving parade through the city’s Muslim quarter could re-ignite their decades-old conflict with Israelis at a time of highly charged tensions.

Hours before the procession was due to kick off, police locked some Palestinians inside a mosque on the Al-Aqsa compound as Jewish visitors arrived for daily tours of the compound, which is revered by both Muslims and Jews.

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Palestinians threw stones and shot fireworks towards police, who responded with stun grenades.

Among the Jewish visitors were a dozen or so young men, wearing religious garb, who smiled, sang and clapped in the direction of the protesters. As the crowds grew, other Jews held up Israeli flags and sang the national anthem.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, condemned videos posted online suggesting that Jews had prayed at the site, in violation of a long-standing ban.

“The Israel government is fully responsible for all these irresponsible policies and the following consequences,” senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told Reuters.


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