World Bulletin/News Desk
The most senior Islamic cleric in Jerusalem said on Sunday Israeli police hurled stun grenades into al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, to quell the latest in a string of Palestinian protests at the politically sensitive holy site.
Israeli police said officers threw the non-lethal devices, which emit a loud noise, on a plaza outside the mosque.
The demonstrators, who have confronted police for the past four days in a bid to stop Israeli and foreign visitors from entering the holy compound, then retreated into al-Aqsa, a police spokesman said.
Grand Mufti Mohammed Hussein said he was present at Sunday's protests and said police "threw the sound bombs into the (al-Aqsa) mosque itself".
Hussein did not say how many grenades landed inside the mosque. "We condemn this is unacceptable and very dangerous escalation," he added.
Hussein said Israeli police also fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters, but only outside the mosque, injuring five people.
Tension has been high in Al-Quds over threats by extremist Jewish groups, which have called on supporters to force their way into the holy compound during the weeklong Jewish Passover holiday, the last day of which is celebrated Sunday.
In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers, often accompanied by Israeli security forces, have repeatedly forced their way into the Al-Aqsa complex. The frequent violations anger Palestinian Muslims and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.
Five Palestinians and two police officers were reported injured in Sunday's face-off at the complex. Police said they arrested 16 Palestinians during the latest protests.
Palestinian concerns have been heightened because allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among the most vocal advocates of Jewish presence at the 25-acre complex.
A visit in 2000 to the holy site by then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon after peace talks broke down was followed by a five-year-long Palestinian uprising.
Tensions at the holy site coincided with a crisis in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, at risk of collapse unless negotiators can agree to extend their talks beyond an April 29 deadline set by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Sovereignty over the compound is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem the capital of the state they aim to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied Al-Quds during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.Last Mod: 21 Nisan 2014, 11:55