UN chief Ban Ki-moon has spoken out against “provocations” at Jerusalem’s holy sites, hours after Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters near al-Aqsa mosque.
“I am… deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem. These only inflame tensions and must stop,” he said at a joint news conference with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah
Ten people were reported injured earlier on Monday when Israeli forces confronted demonstrators protesting against Orthodox Jews entering the al-Aqsa complex to celebrate the festival of Sukkot.
The Palestinian news agency, Maan, said Israeli forces fired stun grenades, tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian protesters during the clashes.
A group of Palestinian activists had overnighted in the mosque, which is Islam’s third holiest site.
On Wednesday there were similar clashes as youths threw stones and fired flares at police after Jewish visitors ascended to the compound on the eve of the week-long holiday of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said that on Monday youths again threw stones and incendiary objects at security forces and set up makeshift barricades.
When police began to disperse them, the protesters took refuge inside al-Aqsa mosque, which the Israeli police are not authorised to enter, she said.
Israelis to do the same.”]
The site is the scene of frequent clashes between police and Palestinian youths, who object to what they see as an attempted Jewish and Israeli takeover of the site that is administered by Jordanian and Palestinian Muslim authorities.
It houses Islamic holy sites the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque and is revered by Jews as the location of the biblical Jewish temples, considered Judaism’s holiest place.
Non-Muslim visits to the al-Aqsa complex are permitted and regulated by police, but Jews are not allowed to pray at the site for fear it could trigger major disturbances.
Jews pray instead at the Western Wall below.
Monday’s visit to the area by the Orthodox Jews eventually went ahead without further incident, police said.
Palestinian men under 50 and all women were denied access to the holy site for the Jewish holiday, and scuffles broke out as Palestinians were turned away from the mosque.
Al-Aqsa is an underlying cause of Israeli-Palestinian tension, which has heightened in Jerusalem since this year’s Gaza conflict.
The UN chief on Monday called for the two sides to revive a stagnant peace process that collapsed in April despite intense US efforts.
“I urge Palestinians to show courage and continue engaging in the… peace process… [and] Israelis to do the same,” Ban said.
“I welcome renewed international political leadership and action. Time is not on the side of peace. “We need to act immediately to prevent a deepening of an already unsustainable status quo… this is the only way to avoid yet another tragic conflict in the future,” he said.