Israeli police deployed in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. AFP
Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters on Friday in the latest violence at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al Aqsa mosque compound, as the United Nations voiced deep concern at spiralling unrest.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said that 57 people were wounded, including 14 Palestinians taken to hospital, one of them in a serious condition, after police stormed the compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem's Old City.
The clashes come after a month of deadly violence, as the Jewish festival of Passover overlaps with the Holy Month of Ramadan.
The violence has sparked international fears of conflict, one year on since similar unrest led to an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Reuters witnesses said police entered the compound after the morning prayers and fired rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades at a crowd of about 200 Palestinians, some of whom were throwing rocks.
Police also fired rubber-tipped bullets from a close range at a group of journalists documenting the clashes, the witnesses said.
Video footage showed the police firing at a group of journalists holding cameras and loudly identifying themselves as members of the press. At least three Palestinian reporters were wounded by rubber bullets fired by police.
Police fired tear gas and rubber-tipped bullets at stone-throwing Palestinian youths, an AFP photographer said. One Palestinian man suffered a severe head wound during clashes, and was taken to Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital, where a spokeswoman told AFP he was in "very serious condition."
Police said the young man, who "threw stones and rioted," was "seriously injured when he fell" running away from them. After midday prayers, some worshippers chanted "incitement" and tried to damage a police post, police said. Police used drones to spray tear gas from the air, AFP reporters said. More than 200 people, mostly Palestinians, have been hurt in clashes in and around Al Aqsa in the past week.
Some older Palestinians urged the youths to stop throwing rocks but were ignored, as dozens of young masked men hurled stones and fireworks at the police. A tree caught fire near the gate where the clashes began. Police said it was ignited by fireworks thrown by the Palestinians.
An upsurge of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in recent weeks has raised fears of a relapse into a broader conflict, like last year's Gaza war.
Firefighters in action following clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces. AFP
Since March Israeli forces have killed at least 29 Palestinians in West Bank raids, the Palestinian health ministry said, and a series of deadly Arab street attacks have killed 14 people in Israel, Israeli police and medics said.
Last Friday, more than 150 Palestinians and several Israeli police officers were injured in similar clashes at Al Aqsa, Palestinian medics and Israeli police said.
"We are deeply concerned by the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel over the past month," said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Palestinian protesters look on as flames erupt in trees inside the Al Aqsa Mosque complex. AFP
"The use of force by Israeli police resulting in widespread injuries among worshippers and staff in and around the Al Aqsa mosque compound must be promptly, impartially, independently and transparently investigated," Shamdasani said.
"Those responsible for any violations should be held to account, and policies and procedures on the use of force reviewed with a view to avoid any further violations."
She said the conduct of Israeli security forces on April 15, captured in numerous videos, "raises serious concerns that the use of force was widespread, unnecessary and indiscriminate", Shamdasani added. Noting how the tension in occupied Jerusalem had impacted on other areas, the spokeswoman said Israel's intensified military operations in the West Bank, especially in Jenin, and the use of firearms by Palestinian militants, "place Palestinian residents at high risk."
Shamdasani said Israel's raids and arrest operations across the West Bank raised serious concerns of "excessive use of force and ill-treatment and arbitrary arrests of family members of wanted people." "Some of the killings, including in particular Israeli security forces shooting at a Palestinian woman in Husan on April 10, raise serious concerns of excessive use of force and arbitrary deprivation of life," she said.
Sheikh Abdullah calls Israeli FM, urges ceasing any practices that violate mosque’s sanctity; Arab League says Israel violating centuries-old policy which says non-Muslims may visit Aqsa but cannot pray there.
The UAE stressed the need to support all regional and international efforts to advance the peace process in the Middle East. It also underscored the need to end illegal Israeli practices that threaten the two-state solution.
The mosque compound in the Israeli-annexed Old City of east Jerusalem has previously seen clashes and violence between Palestinians and Israelis, particularly during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which draws tens of thousands of worshippers to Al Aqsa.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) reaffirmed the UAE's firm position on the need to provide full protection for Al-Aqsa Mosque, and halt serious and provocative violations taking place there.
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