EM: Israeli police cleared Palestinian protesters from a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem on Thursday, as Jewish visits that had been suspended for Muslim holidays resumed.

Several rounds of conflicts have occurred in recent weeks at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is constructed on a hilltop that is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. It is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on an emotional level.

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered as the visits resumed, chanting “God is greatest.” When the cops proceeded to arrest one of them, scuffles erupted. As several Palestinians sought refuge inside the mosque, police fired rubber-coated bullets onto the broad esplanade. The police were afterwards seen right inside the mosque’s main entrance.

A police officer was lightly hurt after responding to dozens of people yelling incitement and throwing stones, according to the police.

However, unlike prior clashes, Palestinian witnesses stated there was no evidence of rock-throwing at first. When police entered the mosque, several of those who had taken refuge inside began throwing stones. Because of security concerns, the witnesses spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Jews are allowed to visit but not pray at the site under an informal agreement known as the status quo. They have been visiting in ever-increasing numbers with police escorts in recent years, and many have quietly prayed, enraging Palestinians as well as Jordan, the site’s custodian. Palestinians have long feared that Israel intends to take control of the site or divide it.
Israel declares its commitment to maintaining the status quo, accusing Hamas of inciting the current bloodshed.
The visits, which were largely made by nationalist and religious Jews, began on Thursday after being suspended for the previous ten days of Ramadan and the Eid Al-Fitr festival.

Thursday is Israel’s Independence Day, and in recent days, fringe groups have called on Jewish pilgrims to wave Israeli flags at the holy site to commemorate the occasion. Palestinians used social media to spread the appeals, as well as calls to confront any such exhibition.

Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official who serves as the Palestinian Authority’s main liaison with Israel, responded to the controversy with a tweet, saying that raising the flag would show “outrageous disregard” for Palestinian feelings and the “continuation of extremist racist campaigns.”

Israel was “playing with fire and driving the region towards an escalation for which the occupation bears full responsibility,” Hamas warned on Wednesday.

Last year, clashes in and around Al-Aqsa sparked an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

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