JERUSALEM, Sept 13 : Muslims clashed with Israeli police at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Sunday hours before the start of the Jewish New Year, the latest violence over access to the site sacred to both faiths.
The clashes came with tensions running high after Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon last week outlawed two Muslim groups that confront Jewish visitors to the compound. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas condemned what he called an Israeli police "attack" at the site, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said authorities must prevent rioting at the compound.
Muslim witnesses said police entered the mosque, Islam's third-holiest site, and caused damage. Police only said they closed the doors to the mosque to lock in rioters throwing stones, fireworks and other objects.
Authorities have used the same tactic in the past in a bid to restore calm and which has seen them briefly enter. According to police, the rioters had barricaded themselves in the mosque overnight with the aim of disrupting visits by Jews to the site ahead of the start of New Year celebrations on Sunday evening.
Authorities said they raided the compound at around 6:45 am (0345 GMT) to ensure visits to the site could go on as usual. Protesters then targeted police from inside the mosque, according to the statement.
"Masked protesters who were inside the mosque threw stones and fireworks at police," it said. "Suspect pipes that could be filled with homemade explosives were also found at the entry to the mosque."
Protesters have previously used such pipes to direct the trajectory of fireworks. A Muslim witness accused police of entering the mosque much further than would have been needed to close the doors and of causing damage, saying prayer mats were partially burned. ?AFP