Isabel Kershner
The New York Times
October 26, 2009 - 12:00am

Israeli police officers clashed Sunday with stone-throwing Palestinians at a site sacred to Muslims and Jews, in the latest sign of tension in this volatile city.

The police said that their forces had entered the Temple Mount compound twice after Palestinians hurled rocks at officers patrolling there, and that they dispersed rioters with stun grenades.

Palestinian medics at the scene said at least 17 Muslims were wounded. Nine police officers were slightly hurt by rocks, a police spokesman said.

The Temple Mount, revered by Jews as the site of two ancient temples and by Muslims as the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al Aksa Mosque, has been the focus of simmering unrest recently. The compound sits in contested territory that Israel took from Jordan in the 1967 war.

The Israeli police chief, David Cohen, said the disturbances were precipitated by calls from right-wing Jewish activists and an Islamist group, the Islamic Movement, for their supporters to ascend the mount on Sunday.

Anticipating violence, hundreds of riot police officers took up positions in and around the Old City, prompting Muslims to accuse Israel of provocation.

A police spokesman said no Jewish groups had tried to enter the compound.

Palestinians insisted that they were defending the mosque from “Jewish settlers” wanting to upset the delicate status quo.

“Al Aksa is our red line,” said Saleh al-Fakhouri, standing behind a police barrier a few yards from the compound. “It is the duty of every Muslim to protect the Aksa mosque.”

He said his son Rami, 20, had lost an eye in a clash at the site in late September, and was back inside the compound on Sunday.

As Mr. Fakhouri spoke, a few masked youths hurled rocks at police officers in a nearby alley. Bewildered tourists picked their way between the riot police and protesters, while business went on as usual in the nearby bazaar.


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