Palestinians and Israelis Clash at Jerusalem Holy Site

JERUSALEM — Clashes broke out Sunday between Palestinians and the Israeli police at a holy site in Jerusalem revered by both Muslims and Jews, after Muslim worshipers threw stones at a group of foreign tourists, apparently mistaking them for Jewish activists.

“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.”
— Zechariah 12:2

Palestinians had been expecting a group of religious Jews to try to enter the Temple Mount compound, according to an independent Palestinian news agency, Maan. The site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, contains the Aksa Mosque. It is located in the Old City, in territory that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.

A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said the police dispersed a crowd of about 150 Palestinian Muslims with stun grenades after they attacked the tourists, who he said were French. Disturbances then broke out in and around the Old City and elsewhere in East Jerusalem as Palestinian officials urged more Muslims to come to the holy site.

At least 40 Palestinians were injured, according to Palestinian officials. Mr. Rosenfeld said that 17 police officers were injured, and that 11 Palestinians were arrested for throwing stones.

The violence occurred a day before Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Monday is also the anniversary of the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which began with clashes at the same disputed holy site on Sept. 28, 2000. Those clashes erupted after a heavily guarded visit to the compound by the head of Israel’s Likud Party at the time, Ariel Sharon, which the Palestinians viewed as a provocation.

The area has remained volatile, with Israel and the Palestinians vying for control. The Palestinian Authority’s Information Ministry issued a statement after the initial clashes on Sunday accusing the “Israeli occupation police and extremist settlers” of “breaking into the courtyard of the mosque, firing tear gas bombs and live bullets” against Palestinian worshipers.

It did not mention the French tourists, but added: “The Ministry of Information calls upon our people to gather at the mosque and to stand in the face of extremist Jewish groups.”

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, accused Israel of “deliberately escalating tensions in Jerusalem” by sending the police up to the mosque compound.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 29, 2009
An article on Monday about clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli police at the Temple Mount, a holy site in Jerusalem revered by both Muslims and Jews, misstated the political post held by Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli leader, when he visited the site eight years ago, an act that Palestinians viewed as a provocation that led to the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Mr. Sharon, then head of Israel’s Likud Party, was the opposition leader, not the prime minister. (Ehud Barak, the Labor Party leader, was the prime minister.)

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