Palestinians, Israeli police clash at Jerusalem shrine for third day

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli police armed with stun grenades and tear gas clashed with rock-throwing Palestinian youths who barricaded themselves inside Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque on Tuesday, police and witnesses said, in the third day of violence at the sacred site.

Masked Palestinians hurled flares at the security forces, who said they were trying to secure the plaza outside Islam's third holiest shrine to stop what they said was a Palestinian attempt to disrupt visits to the compound on Jewish New Year.

The United States and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both voiced concern about the violence at the site, revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount.

King Abdullah from neighbouring Jordan said the Israeli actions were provocative and could imperil ties between the countries, state media reported in Tuesday and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Israel's actions.

Jordan's Hashemite dynasty derives part of its legitimacy from its traditional custodianship of the holy site. "If this continues to happen ... Jordan will have no choice but to take action," King Abdullah, whose father King Hussein signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, was quoted as saying.

Palestinians fear that the increasing visits by Jewish groups to the site, captured by Israeli forces when they seized east Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank in a 1967 war, are eroding Muslim religious control there.

Palestinian Presidency spokesperson Nabil Abu Rdeinah said Abbas and King Abdullah had discussed the events by phone. "(Israel's) religious war will drag the region into endless fighting," Abu Rdeinah said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to hold an emergency ministerial meeting late on Tuesday, called after an Israeli motorist died in a crash police said was caused by suspected stone-throwing.


Twenty-six Palestinians were injured on Tuesday, none of them seriously, the Director of the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency unit, Amin Abu Ghazaleh, said.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said five officers were lightly wounded and two Palestinians were arrested.

Some stone throwing spread to other areas of the Old City, police and a witness said, with no injuries reported.

Jewish ultra-nationalists have been pushing the Israeli government to allow Jewish prayer on the compound outside al-Aqsa, which stands above Judaism's Western Wall.

Such worship, certain to stir Muslim anger, has been banned on the plaza by Israel since 1967 and Netanyahu has said he would not allow any change to the religious status quo.

Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian youths last erupted outside al-Aqsa in late July, on the annual Jewish day of mourning for Jerusalem's two destroyed Biblical temples and in October as Muslim anger mounted at the presence of Jewish worshippers at the site over Jewish holidays.

In 2000 Ariel Sharon, then Israel's opposition leader, visited the compound. That enraged Palestinians and sparked an uprising, or Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada. It continued for five years and left about 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis dead.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after the 1967 war, as the capital of a state they aspire to establish in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its indivisible and eternal capital, a claim not recognised internationally. Peace talks between the sides collapsed in 2014.

(Reporting by Ammar Awad, Maayan Lubell and Ali Sawafta; Additional reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman and Louis Charbonneau in New York; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Dominic Evans)