More than 20 Palestinians and Israelis were injured in several incidents in and around the compound of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, two days after major violence at the powder keg site.
Sunday’s clashes bring the number of injured since Friday to more than 170, at a tense time when the Passover holiday coincides with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
They also follow deadly violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank from late March, in which 36 people were killed.
Early Sunday morning, police said “hundreds” of Palestinian protesters inside the mosque compound had begun gathering piles of stones shortly before the Jewish visitors arrived.
Jews are allowed to visit but not pray at the site, also known as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.
Israel Police said their forces entered the compound in order to “bring out” the protesters and “restore order”.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said 19 Palestinians were injured, with at least five hospitalized. He said some were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets.
Early Sunday morning, Jewish worshipers were seen leaving the site – barefoot for religious reasons – protected by heavily armed police.
Outside the Old City, which is in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian youths threw rocks at passing buses, smashing their windows, resulting in seven people being treated for minor injuries, it said. Shaare Zedek Hospital.
Police said they had arrested 18 Palestinians and Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said Israel would “act firmly against anyone who dares to use terrorism against Israeli citizens”.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the security forces “continue to have carte blanche…for any action that will ensure the safety of the citizens of Israel”, while stressing that every effort must be made to allow members of all religions to worship in Jerusalem.
King Abdullah II of Jordan on Sunday called on Israel to “stop all illegal and provocative measures” that lead to “further aggravation”.
Jordan is the guardian of the holy sites in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed in a move not recognized by most of the international community.
Senior Palestinian official Hussein Al Sheikh said that “Israel’s dangerous escalation in al-Aqsa compound…is a blatant attack on our holy sites”, and called on the international community to intervene.
The leader of the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, had previously warned Israel that “al-Aqsa is ours and ours alone”.
“Our people have the right to enter and pray there, and we will not bow down to [Israeli] repression and terror,” Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement.
The UN has called for calm, a year after clashes in and around the mosque compound escalated into an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Weeks of rising tensions have seen two recent deadly attacks by Palestinians in or near the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, alongside mass arrests by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.
A total of 14 people have been killed in attacks on Israel since March 22.
Twenty-two Palestinians were killed during the same period, including assailants who targeted Israelis, according to a tally by Agence France-Presse.
On Friday morning, police clashed with Palestinians in the al-Aqsa compound, including inside the al-Aqsa Mosque, drawing strong condemnation from Muslim countries. Some 150 people were injured in these clashes.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a call on Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said he would contact all parties to “stop the Israeli escalation”, the office said. Abbas in a statement.
Pope Francis prayed for peace on Sunday as Christians marked Easter at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, where they believe Jesus died and rose again. The pontiff said in his Easter address: “May Israelis, Palestinians and all who inhabit the Holy City, as well as pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, live in brotherhood and enjoy free access to holy places with mutual respect for the rights of each.”
Despite the tensions, hundreds of Christians staged a lively parade in Jerusalem, with processions led by marching bands with deafening drums and wailing bagpipes.