Clashes erupted early Friday between Israeli police and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a key holy site in Jerusalem, with at least 67 Palestinians injured, according to medics.
It was unclear what provoked the violence at the time. According to the Islamic endowment that manages the site, Israeli police arrived before dawn, as thousands of worshippers gathered at the mosque for early morning prayers.
Online videos showed Palestinians throwing rocks and police firing tear gas and stun grenades. Others showed people barricading themselves inside the mosque amid what seemed to be tear gas clouds.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency agency, 59 injured persons were taken to hospitals. According to the endowment, one of the site’s guards was hit in the eye with a rubber bullet.
Israeli authorities had no quick comment.
The mosque is Islam’s third holiest place. It is situated on a hilltop that is the holiest site for Jews, known as the Temple Mount. For decades, it has been a main hotspot for Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks as a result of a string of Palestinian attacks within Israel that killed 14 people. Israel has conducted a surge of arrests and military operations in the occupied West Bank, sparking riots in which several Palestinians have been killed.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians were expected to attend Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa as Muslims observed the holy month of Ramadan.
During Ramadan last year, weeks of protests and rioting in Jerusalem erupted into an 11-day battle with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which administers the Gaza Strip.
Israel had eased restrictions and taken other measures to try to defuse tensions ahead of Ramadan, which this year coincided with the Jewish Passover festival and the Christian holy week, bringing thousands of pilgrims and other tourists to Jerusalem.
However, the attacks and military incursions have sparked a new wave of upheaval.
Earlier this week, Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza called on Palestinians to spend the weekend camped out at the Al-Aqsa shrine. Palestinians have long feared that Israel intends to take control or partition the site.
Israeli officials claim to be committed to maintaining the status quo, but in recent years, nationalist and religious Jews have visited the site in huge numbers, escorted by police.
In the 1967 war, Israel took east Jerusalem, home to Al-Aqsa and other key holy sites, and annexed it in a move that was not recognised internationally. Palestinians want the eastern section of the city to be the capital of a future independent state that includes the West Bank and Gaza, both of which Israel took during the conflict nearly 55 years ago.