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50 wounded and 350 arrested as Israeli police storm al-Aqsa mosque

ISRAELI police stormed the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem today, firing stun grenades at Palestinians inside who responded by throwing stones and firecrackers.

Outside the mosque’s gate, police dispersed crowds of young men with stun grenades and rubber bullets.

People arrested and later released from the compound said police had burst in and attacked worshippers, using truncheons, rifles and even chairs to strike men, women and children, with video footage appearing to confirm their accounts.

Many Palestinians present had brought projectiles to evening prayers, reportedly because of a history of such attacks.

Medics from the Palestinian Red Crescent said that at least 50 people were injured.

Israeli police said they were not immediately able to confirm the reports and videos showing officers beating Palestinians but said 350 were arrested. They added that one officer was injured in the leg.

One victim — 19-year-old Amin Risheq — said that he was beaten and forced to lie on the floor of the mosque with his hands bound before being taken to a police station where he did not get access to a toilet, medical attention or water for over six hours.

“They treated us like animals,” he said.

The assault during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and as the Jewish Passover festival begins raised fears of spiralling communal violence.

During Ramadan Palestinians often seek to stay overnight in the mosque, which is sited on Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock or Temple Mount, the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest in Judaism.

Israeli authorities often seek to evict them as night falls. Around 80,000 worshippers had prayed at the mosque on Tuesday evening, with hundreds refusing to leave, partly because of recent threats from Jewish extremists to try to carry out ritual animal sacrifices in the compound, a revival of ancient customs at the former Jewish Temple which Israel bans. 

Rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel after news of the attack in the mosque broke out, with Israel launching air raids in response, though no casualties were immediately reported.

Similar incidents prompted an 11-day exchange of fire in 2021 that killed 256 Palestinians and 14 Israelis.

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