Israel’s police announced that they had “arrested more than 350” people after the violent incidents that broke out on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday between Israeli police and worshipers who they described as “rioters” inside the Al-Aqsa Islamic mosque in the eastern Jerusalem, one of Islam’s most iconic places of worship, raising concerns about further escalation of tensions as Ramadan, the Jewish and Christian Easters coincide this year.

Denouncing this “unprecedented crime”, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip, called on West Bank Palestinians to “go en masse to the Al-Aqsa Islamic mosque to defend it”.

Al Aqsa is located in the Square of Mosques, Islam’s third holiest place of worship, in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian sector of the holy city that Israel has occupied and annexed. The square is located on what Jews call the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.

The episodes are recorded in the middle of Ramadan and while Jews celebrate Passover from tonight, against the backdrop of the continued escalation of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this year.

Israeli police released video clips of more than 50 seconds showing explosions that appear to have been caused by fireworks at the place of worship, while silhouettes can be seen throwing stones. In another sequence, police officers in riot gear advance into the mosque raising shields to protect themselves from objects being thrown at them. Police are also shown removing at least five people with their hands tied to bars.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, at least seven Palestinians were injured. According to the same source, wounded bearers were prevented from entering the Islamic mosque.

Other sources, such as the Jerusalem Post newspaper, spoke of 13 wounded, 12 Palestinians and one Israeli policeman.

“I was sitting on a chair and reciting (the Koran),” the elderly woman told Reuters news agency, still breathing hard, when Israeli police stormed in and “threw stun grenades, one of which hit me in the chest,” she added, before start crying

The footage also shows youths barricaded behind a door.

The police said that the operation was carried out to “remove rioters” who had entered the place of worship with “fireworks, clubs and stones” and intended to “disrupt public order” and “arrest the temple” while shouting “inciting slogans”. of hatred and violence”, and that it was decided to take place after many attempts to persuade them to leave peacefully.

However, Palestinian media spoke of riots following a “violent expulsion” of worshippers.

“Dangerous Escalation”

A short time after the news broke that incidents broke out at the place of worship, at least nine rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory, five of which were “intercepted by air defense” in the Sderot sector (south) and the rest four fell in uninhabited areas.

In “retaliation” for the rocket fire, fighter jets hit two Hamas training and weapons manufacturing centers in the central part of the Gaza Strip and at around 06:15 (local time; 07:15 Greek time) new strikes followed in the enclave. However, no victims were reported.

Earlier, dozens of protesters took to the streets in various locations and set fire to tires and other objects. “We swear to defend and protect Al-Aqsa,” chanted the crowd.

Egypt’s Ministry of Defense released a press release stressing that it “condemns the raid of the Israeli police inside the (Islamic mosque) Al-Aqsa and the attack on worshipers.”

“Egypt holds Israel, the (…) occupying power, responsible for this dangerous escalation that may undermine efforts (to observe) a ceasefire,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry added.

Announcements with similar content were also issued by the diplomacy of Jordan — the custodian of the holy places in Jerusalem — and Saudi Arabia.

Nabil Abu Rudayna, spokesman for the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, emphasized that “we warn the occupying power (including Israel) not to cross the red lines in the holy places, because it will lead to a big explosion.”

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks set to remain this year on the trajectory of escalation that began in the spring of 2022, after the new government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office, one of the most right-wing in Israel’s history. Since the beginning of 2023, they have lost more than 110 people — at least 88 Palestinians (combatants and civilians, including minors), an Israeli Arab, another 14 Israelis (members of the security forces and civilians) and a Ukrainian woman, according to a count by the French Agency based on the official announcements of the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

The relative calm that prevailed after Ramadan began (March 23) ended over the weekend.