Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa mosque, arresting and injuring hundreds of worshippers
Israeli forces stormed Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound early on Friday, firing stun grenades, tear gas and live rounds as Muslim worshippers gathered at the religious site.
Nearly 400 Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces, the head of the Jerusalem Prisoners’ Families Committee, Amjad Abu Asab, said, while at least 150 Palestinians were injured, the Red Crescent in Jerusalem reported.
Eight of the injured were transferred to intensive care units, medical sources at the Al-Makassed Islamic Hospital told The New Arab's Arabic-language service.
Some three Israeli soldiers were injured by Palestinians who hurled stones as they entered the mosque area.
The Palestinian Presidency has slammed the escalation as a "declaration of war".
"The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the entry of the occupation forces is a dangerous development and desecration of sanctities, and tantamount to a declaration of war on the Palestinian people," Palestinian Presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, urging countries and international bodies to prevent Israeli violations.
The director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Omar al-Kiswani, said Friday prayers would go ahead despite the Israeli incursion, which is its first on the Al-Aqsa Mosque since the beginning of Ramadan.
#شاهد.. تنظيف المسجد الأقصى بعد الدمار الذي خلفته اقتحام قوات الاحتلال. pic.twitter.com/LjmeASrjUq— المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام (@PalinfoAr) April 15, 2022
The latest escalation comes after three tense weeks of deadly violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank, and as the Jewish festival of Passover and Christian Easter overlap with Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.
Al-Aqsa is Islam's third holiest site. Jews refer to it as the Temple Mount, referencing two temples believed to have stood there in antiquity.
The compound is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, falling within Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Before Ramadan began this month, Israel and Jordan, which serves as custodian of holy places in east Jerusalem, stepped up talks in an effort to avoid a repeat of last year's violence.
Last year during the Muslim month of fasting, Israeli settlers and soldiers regularly stormed the sacred compound as Muslim worshippers gathered.
On 10 May 2021 hundreds of Palestinians were injured when Israeli soldiers stormed the mosque. The Palestinian group Hamas responded with rocket fire from Gaza.
The violence led to a devastating 11-day bombing of the Gaza Strip by Israel, in which at least 250 Palestinians - including dozens of children - were killed.
Israel has poured additional forces into the West Bank and is reinforcing its wall and fence barrier with the occupied territory after four deadly attacks inside Israel in the past three weeks.
On Thursday, Israel announced it would block crossings from the West Bank and Gaza Strip into Israel from Friday afternoon through Saturday, the first two nights of the week-long Passover festival, and potentially keep the crossings closed for the rest of the holiday.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has given Israeli forces a free hand to "defeat terror" in the territory which Israel has illegally occupied since the 1967 war, warning that there would "not be limits" for the campaign.
At least six Palestinians were killed in 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday as Israeli forces launched fresh raids into the West Bank.
Agencies contributed to this report.