Netanyahu Spokesman Claims Palestinians Planned Protest at Al-Aqsa Mosque Where Over 300 Injured

After a conflict between Palestinians and Israeli police at Al-Aqsa mosque Monday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the actions of the police force, saying that ensuring the rights of worship for all, "requires from time to time stand up and stand strong as Israeli police and our security forces are doing now."

More than 305 Palestinians and 21 police officers were injured during a confrontation where police fired tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinians at the mosque, according to a photographer for The Associated Press.

Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Netanyahu, shared photos of the scene at the holy site, showing mounds of stones and wooden barricades.

Gendelman said in a tweet that "extremist Palestinians planned well in advance to carry out riots" at the site.

However, Arab officials place the blame on Israel's discriminatory policies towards Palestinians and claimed Israeli forces provoked the violence.

"Wherever you find occupation, you will find resistance," Ayman Odeh, said at a news conference."

Israeli Forces Palestinians
Palestinians hurl stones at Israeli security forces across the border fence, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 9, 2021. - Israel vowed to restore order in Jerusalem following consecutive nights of violence around the revered Al-Aqsa mosque compound, fuelled by a years-long bid by Jewish settlers to take over nearby Palestinian homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images

Monday's confrontation was the latest after weeks of mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the Old City of Jerusalem, the emotional center of the conflict. The clashes have come during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, already a time of heightened religious sensitivities.

Most recently, the tensions have been fueled by an eviction plan in an Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem where Israeli settlers have waged a lengthy legal battle to take over properties.

Hundreds of Palestinians and about two dozen police officers have been hurt over the past few days in clashes at the sacred compound, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The compound, which has been the trigger for rounds of Israel-Palestinian violence in the past, is Islam's third-holiest site and considered Judaism's holiest.

An AP photographer at the scene said that early Monday morning that protesters had barricaded gates to the walled compound with wooden boards and scrap metal. Sometime after 7. a.m., clashes erupted, with those inside throwing stones at police deployed outside. Police reportedly entered the compound, firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel pellets and stun grenades.

At some point, about 400 people, both young protesters and older worshippers, were inside the carpeted Al-Aqsa Mosque. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the mosque.

Police said protesters hurled stones at officers and onto an adjoining roadway near the Western Wall, where thousands of Israeli Jews had gathered to pray.

After several days of Jerusalem confrontations, Israel has come under growing international criticism for its heavy-handed actions at the site, particularly during Ramadan.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled closed consultations on the situation Monday.

Late Sunday, the U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat. A White House statement said that Sullivan called on Israel to "pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm" and expressed the U.S.'s "serious concerns" about the ongoing violence and planned evictions.

In other violence, Palestinian protesters hurled rocks at an Israeli vehicle driving just outside the Old City walls. The driver later told public broadcaster Kan that his windows were smashed by stones and pepper spray shot into the car as he drove past the Old City. CCTV footage of the incident released by the police showed a crowd surrounding the car and pelting it with rocks, its rear window shattered when it swerved off the road and into a stone barrier and a bystander. Police said two passengers were injured.

The day began with police announcing that Jews would be barred from visiting the holy site on what Israelis mark as Jerusalem Day, with a flag-waving parade through the Old City that is widely perceived by Palestinians as a provocative display in the contested city. The marchers celebrate Israel's capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war.

In that conflict, Israel also captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It later annexed east Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital. The Palestinians seek all three areas for a future state, with east Jerusalem as their capital.

Police have allowed the Jerusalem Day parade to take place despite growing concerns that it could further inflame tensions after violence has occurred almost nightly throughout Ramadan.

It began when Israel blocked off a popular spot where Muslims traditionally gather each night at the end of their daylong fast. Israel later removed the restrictions, but clashes quickly resumed amid tensions over the planned eviction of Palestinians from the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Israel's Supreme Court postponed a key ruling Monday that could have forced dozens of Palestinians from their homes, citing the "circumstances."

The Israeli crackdown and planned evictions have drawn harsh condemnations from Israel's Arab allies and expressions of concern from the U.S., European Union, and the United Nations.

The tensions in Jerusalem have threatened to reverberate throughout the region.
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired several barrages of rockets into Israel, and protesters allied with the ruling Hamas militant group have launched dozens of incendiary balloons into Israel, setting off fires across the southern part of the country.

"The occupier plays with fire, and tampering with Jerusalem is very dangerous," Saleh Arouri, a top Hamas official, told the militant group's Al-Aqsa TV station.

In response, COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry organ responsible for crossings with the Gaza Strip, announced Monday that it was closing the Erez crossing to all but humanitarian and exceptional cases until further notice.

Palestinians Al Aqsa Mosque
Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City Monday, May 10, 2021. Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site on Monday, the latest in a series of confrontations that is pushing the contested city to the brink of eruption. Palestinian medics said at least 180 Palestinians were hurt in the violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, including 80 who were hospitalized. Mahmoud Illean/AP Photo