Clashes have erupted near the Al-Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli police, leaving three officers lightly injured.
The incidents started after 60 Israeli right-wingers were escorted by police into the compound, which is known as Haram al-Sharif among Muslims and Temple Mount to Jews, to observe the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or the feast of the Tabernacles. Palestinian sources reported that Muslim worshippers were forcibly removed from the holy site and attacked with clubs.
An Israeli police spokeswoman, Luba Samri, told Al Jazeera that several dozen masked Palestinians threw stones, fire crackers and other devices at police, who reacted by firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.
After the clashes, Palestinian demonstrators sheltered inside the mosque and kept throwing objects at police. At least one Molotov cocktail was hurled at Israeli officials but failed to ignite, according to Samri. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Twitter:
Tension at the mosque compound is particularly high at this time of the year, which is described as the High Jewish holidays when many Jews go to pray to Temple Mount.
Al-Aqsa is Islam's third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina. It is the place where, according to the Muslim faith, Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Temple Mount is considered the holiest site for Jews, as it is the place where God chose the Divine Presence to rest. According to scripture, it is where God gathered dust to create Adam, and also the location where Abraham tied up Isaac. It was also the place where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by Romans in 70 AD.
According to mainstream Judaism, Jews are forbidden from entering Temple Mount for fear they would stumble upon and profane the "Holy of Holies," or the inner sanctum of the Second Temple. This is also why the chief rabbinate has always opposed Jewish worship in the compound.