At least 31 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem

At least 31 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem

At least 31 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on Friday, Palestinian medics said, the latest outbreak in a recent upsurge of violence at a site revered by Muslims and Jews alike.

The Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said 14 Palestinians had been taken to the hospital, two of whom had been seriously injured.

Israeli police said its forces intervened when hundreds of people began hurling rocks and fireworks and drew close to the Western Wall, where Jewish worship was underway.

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. The witnesses said that police also fired rubber-tipped bullets from a close range at a group of journalists documenting the clashes.

An increase in violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in recent weeks has raised fears of a broader conflict, like last year s Gaza war.

Israeli forces have killed 29 Palestinians in West Bank raids since March, the Palestinian health ministry said, and a series of deadly Arab street attacks have killed 14 people in Israel, Israeli police and medics said.

More than 150 Palestinians and several Israeli police officers were injured last Friday in similar clashes at Al-Aqsa, Palestinian medics and Israeli police said.

A UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the conduct of Israeli security forces that day raises serious concerns that the use of force was widespread, unnecessary and indiscriminate.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover, which brings more Muslims and Jewish visitors to the compound, the holiest in Judaism.

Palestinians accuse Israel of restricting Muslim worship at the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam and known as the Temple Mount, while not doing enough to enforce a long-standing ban on Jewish prayer there. Israel rejects this accusation.

Israel is halting Jewish visits during the final days of Ramadan, as in previous years, an Israeli official said. Muslim attendance at the compound has increased during the last days of the fasting month.

The Al-Aqsa compound is situated above the Old City plateau of East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed in a move that has not won international recognition.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.