|A Palestinian threw a stone toward the shields of Israeli riot police in Jerusalem’s Old City yesterday. (Ammar Awad/ Reuters)|
JERUSALEM - Israeli riot police dispersed a crowd of masked Palestinian youths throwing stones in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City yesterday, in a violent reminder of tensions at the holiest site in the contested city.
In the past, even seemingly minor incidents at the hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary have ignited clashes and protests throughout the region. A Palestinian official warned that yesterday’s incident could undermine efforts to resume peace talks.
Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said police dispersed some 20 masked protesters who had holed up overnight in the compound’s Al-Aqsa mosque and then pelted tourists with objects and threw rocks at police officers who showed up at the scene.
The police quickly restored calm and tourists were allowed to continue visiting the compound, one of Jerusalem’s main tourist sites, Rosenfeld said. But sporadic clashes between small groups of masked Palestinians and police continued in the Old City’s back alleys. No serious injuries were reported.
The holy compound has been under Israeli security control since the 1967 war, but Israel has left its day-to-day management in the hands of an Islamic administration known as the Waqf.
As in similar incidents in the past, yesterday’s protests appeared to have erupted because of rumors that Jewish extremists planned to enter the holy compound, according to the Waqf’s director, Abdul Azim Samhadana.
He blamed Israeli police for provoking the youths.