Worshippers, Israel police clash at Al-Aqsa over Koran
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Israeli riot police use stun grenades during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound following Friday prayers on March 8, 2013. AFP PhotoPalestinians enraged by reports that an Israeli policeman mishandled a Koran battled riot officers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound with stones and petrol bombs on Friday, police and witnesses said.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that about 100 protesters, many of them masked, attacked police who fired stun grenades in response.
"Petrol bombs were thrown at police," he told AFP. "Several police officers were injured by stones that were thrown and were evacuated to hospital." An AFP journalist at the scene said the clash was triggered by Palestinian media allegations that a policeman at the compound, one of Islam's holiest sites, on Sunday kicked a holy book and trampled on it.
"That's completely incorrect," Rosenfeld said, adding that the Koran in question was being held by one of a group of women seeking to block a visit to the compound by Israelis when the book fell by accident.
"When the bench was removed from the area the Koran fell on the floor. The Koran was picked up and returned to the lady and there was no misconduct by any of the police." Tensions at the site have run high for weeks as worshippers staged protests in solidarity with Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
Anger was stoked even further last month when Palestinian Arafat Jaradat, 30, died in Israeli custody after being interrogated by the Shin Bet internal security service.
In the West Bank village of Abud, northwest of Ramallah, about 1,000 mourners attended the funeral of a local man who died Thursday of head injuries after being shot by Israeli troops with a rubber bullet two weeks ago during a protest over Jaradat's death, which Palestinian officials said was caused by torture.
Israel says further forensic tests are needed to determine the cause of Jaradat's death.
An army spokeswoman said that after Friday's burial of Mohammed Asfour about 100 people hurled stones at security forces, who responded with "riot dispersal means." An AFP photographer said soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets but there were no immediate reports of injuries.