JERUSALEM: Israeli police attacked worshippers inside the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem early Wednesday as police said they had entered to dislodge “agitators”, a move denounced as an “unprecedented crime” by Hamas.

Hamas called on Palestinians in the West Bank “to go en masse to the Al-Aqsa mosque to defend it”.

Israeli police said they had entered the mosque to dislodge “agitators” who had barricaded themselves inside with fireworks, sticks and stones.

The mosque compound in the Israeli-annexed Old City of east Jerusalem has previously seen violence, particularly during Ramadan, which draws tens of thousands of worshippers to Al-Aqsa.

The fresh violence comes nearly halfway through Ramadan and as Jews prepare to celebrate Passover from Wednesday evening.

Israeli police inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, early on April 5, 2023 after clashes erupted: Photo: AFP
Israeli police inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, early on April 5, 2023 after clashes erupted: Photo: AFP

A police video shows riot police with shields advancing through the mosque under a barrage of fireworks explosions.

The footage then shows a barricaded door and boxes of fireworks on the floor, as well as police escorting at least five people outside with their hands cuffed behind their backs.

Rockets fired

Israeli police said they were forced to enter the mosque after “several law-breaking youths and masked agitators” barricaded themselves inside.

“These instigators fortified it, hours after the (last evening) Taraweeh prayer in order to disrupt public order and desecrate the mosque,” the police said in a statement.

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“After many and prolonged attempts to get them out by talking to no avail, police forces were forced to enter the compound in order to get them out with the intentions to allow the Fajr (dawn) prayer and to prevent a violent disturbance,” they added.

“When the police entered, stones were thrown at them and fireworks were fired from inside the mosque by a large group of agitators,” they continued, adding that one officer was injured in the leg by a stone.

Police “detained the rioters”, who “caused damage to the mosque and desecrated it”, the statement said, without specifying the number of people detained.

After the announcement of the clashes at Al-Aqsa, several rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory, according to AFP journalists and witnesses.

AFP journalists said they saw three rockets fired from afar and witnesses said they saw others, while the Israeli army reported rocket warning sirens had been triggered in several Israeli urban centres around the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said five rockets fired from the Gaza Strip were intercepted by the aerial defence system around Sderot in southern Israel, and that four others had fallen in uninhabited areas.

The air raids were followed by new rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, and at around 6:15 am (0415 GMT), Israeli jets carried out attacks, according to AFP journalists.

No injuries were reported after the first series of raids.

“We swear to defend and protect the Al-Aqsa mosque,” they said.

Men clean the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City following clashes early on April 5, 2023. Photo: AFP
Men clean the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City following clashes early on April 5, 2023. Photo: AFP

Egypt condemned the Israeli police’s “storming” of the mosque and “the accompanying blatant attacks” on worshippers.

“Egypt holds Israel, the occupying power, responsible for this dangerous escalation which could undermine the truce efforts in which Egypt is engaged with its regional and international partners,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The clash has been sucked into a spiral of violence since the start of the year after one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history took office at the end of December.

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The conflict has claimed the lives of at least 91 Palestinians, 15 Israelis and one Ukrainian since January, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.

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KhanRA Apr 05, 2023 12:32pm
UAE, who we try to mimic, is OK with this and is building closer and closer relations with Israel. Same with Saudi Arabia. We should stop trying to emulate these hypocrites. Everything we do seems modeled on them - from our use of Allah Hafiz nowadays, the car-centric and unsustainable ways we design our cities. There are better Muslim countries to follow and grow close to: Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh.
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String Out Apr 05, 2023 12:35pm
Interesting.... a black american died and whole world came on street.... these Palestinians are being killed on the street and religious their places... yet! Civilized nations take pride on humanitarian activities themselves and through United nations... yet!
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Tulukan Mairandi Apr 05, 2023 03:52pm
Terrorists of Palestin and any other pseudostate must be dealt with an iron fist. Be it Hamas or TTP or BLA or Palestinians.
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