JERUSALEM – Dozens of people were seriously injured in the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Friday as violence erupted ahead of a special evening prayer held during the holy month of Ramadan, Palestinian officials said on Saturday. health and the Israeli police.
Most of the injuries were to the face and eyes and appeared to be caused by rubber bullets, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent told NBC News by phone. They added that 205 people were injured, 88 of them seriously. Several are in critical condition, they said.
A field hospital has been set up to treat the wounded within the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, the spokesperson said. The complex is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Of the 17 police officers treated by medical staff, about half required additional treatment in hospital, an Israel Police spokeswoman said in a statement.
Before the evening prayers, hundreds of “rioters” began “to throw stones, various objects and fireworks at the police forces near one of the gates of the Temple Mount,” he said. she said.
She added that the officers were then ordered to enter the compound and “restore order”. After the prayer, she said the violence resumed and some people barricaded themselves inside the mosque before being subsequently evacuated.
NBC News witnessed the explosion of non-lethal stun grenades and a rubber bullet on the ground, as well as Palestinians throwing objects at security forces. Many Muslims continued to pray as violence erupted around them.
Video footage from inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque showed commotion as loud bangs pierced the air. Another appeared to show Israeli security personnel walking through a prayer area.
Mariam Yassin, 27, who was inside the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday, said that around 8 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET), Israeli security forces threw sound grenades at a group of Muslim worshipers chanting religious songs.
“Everyone was running and a few young men took stones and started throwing them at the soldiers, and the situation escalated,” she said.
Previously, tens of thousands of worshipers had attended the last Friday afternoon prayers of Ramadan, according to the Islamic Waqf authority which oversees the Islamic section of the complex that has sparked clashes for centuries.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, is located on a 37-acre esplanade known to Palestinians as al-Haram al-Sharif, or noble shrine. In Judaism, the Temple Mount is the religion’s holiest site, linked to its history as the site of the first and second temples.
The violence at the holy place came after a bloody week in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and ahead of a crucial court case in a long-running legal battle involving the homes of four Palestinian families on land claimed by Jewish settlers in the Jerusalem neighborhood -Is Sheikh Jarrah.
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There have been regular protests throughout the month of Ramadan over their threat of deportation and the case is expected to be heard by Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank and Gaza, in a 1967 Six-Day War with its Arab neighbors. Israel subsequently annexed East Jerusalem in a move unrecognized by the majority of the international community and regards the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza, to be part of a future Palestinian state.
A law passed by the Israeli parliament in 1970 authorizes the recovery of property previously owned by the Jewish people in East Jerusalem, although Palestinians do not have this right to recover property in West Jerusalem.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday that the United States was “extremely concerned” about the ongoing clashes in Jerusalem. “We call on Israeli and Palestinian officials to act decisively to defuse tensions and end the violence,” he said in a statement. “Leaders from all walks of life must speak out against all acts of violence.”
Calling on the international community to end “aggression”, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that he held the Israeli government “fully responsible for dangerous developments and ongoing attacks”.
Meanwhile, the ruling Hamas in Gaza, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, said Palestinian youth are calling for a day of “outrage” on Saturday and for the “fighting to return on Saturday.” the ground relentless “in response to the events in Jerusalem, according to the Al-Aqsa television station controlled by the group.
Lawahez Jabari reported from Jerusalem and Saphora Smith from London.
Matthew mulligan and Raf Sanchez contributed.