Police scuffled on Friday with Muslims protesting Israeli construction outside a disputed Jerusalem holy site, but the scattered clashes were quickly contained and no one was seriously hurt, police said.Fifteen protesters were arrested, police said.
Three thousand officers — triple the ordinary number — were deployed around east Jerusalem to keep order during weekly prayers Friday, and access to the hilltop shrine was restricted to women and Muslim men over the age of 50 with Israeli ID cards. After prayers last Friday, police streamed into the grounds of the complex and used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse stone-throwing protesters.
There has been sporadic unrest in Jerusalem since early February, when Israel began work on a new walkway up to the Old City compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Muslims have claimed that the work will harm the site’s mosques, a charge Israel denies.
The Palestinians arrested were trying to break through police checkpoints or throwing stones at police officers, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Policemen used stun grenades to disperse a crowd in one neighborhood, Rosenfeld said, but there were no casualties.
Arab teenagers threw stones and burned tires at a West Bank checkpoint leading into Jerusalem, and security personnel used tear gas to disperse them. Shoving matches were reported around the city. But the 6,000 worshippers who attended prayers at the site dispersed without incident, Rosenfeld said.
Outside the mosque compound, Mohammed Omar, 65, attributed the relative quiet to the severe restrictions on access to the mosque.
”The rage is still here, it will not go away,” Omar said.
The Israeli work has drawn protests from around the Islamic world. In Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir, the rebel group Jamait-ul-Mujahedeen shut down shops and public transportation on Friday. Police used cane batons to control stone-throwing crowds in some parts of the city, but no one was injured or detained.