World Bulletin/News Desk
A motorist rammed into pedestrians on a crowded Jerusalem street and then got out of his vehicle to attack people with a metal bar on Wednesday in what Israeli police, who shot him dead, said appeared to be a deliberate Palestinian attack.
An ambulance service spokesman said eight people were injured by the driver, two of them critically.
It was the second such incident in two weeks in the holy city, the scene of daily Palestinian protests amid tensions over a sacred Al-Aqsa compound.
Police said the driver ran down pedestrians on a main road that straddles predominantly Arab East Jerusalem and an adjacent ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood. Crashing to a halt at a nearby junction, he emerged from the van and began striking at people with a metal pipe.
On Oct. 22, a Palestinian motorist drove through a nearby train station, killing two people before he was shot dead by Israeli police.
Police referred to Wednesday's incident as a "terrorist attack" and said the driver was apparently a Palestinian from East Jerusalem. He was killed by officers at the scene.
A number of Jewish settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Wednesday following clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers inside the complex, a Palestinian official said.
"The Israeli police allowed the settlers to storm the compound and are now providing protection for their tour," Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of the Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, a Palestinian NGO, told Anadolu Agency.
The intrusion came following violent clashes, during which scores of Palestinian worshippers were injured.
"At least 15 Palestinian were injured by rubber bullets, including two in the head and one in the eye, while dozens suffered teargas inhalation," a Palestinian guard of the holy complex told AA.
According to the guard, as many as 60 Israeli troops stormed into the compound's courtyards through Al-Magharbeh and Al-Silsila gates and began shooting randomly towards the worshipers.
The violence came as several extremist Jewish groups called for mass intrusions into Al-Aqsa Mosque on Wednesday to mark the passage of one week after the shooting of extremist rabbi Yehuda Glick in Jerusalem by a Palestinian man.
"The Israeli forces are trying to evacuate as many Muslims as possible from the Al-Aqsa compound to facilitate the entry of settlers," Sheikh Omar al-Qiswani, the Palestinian director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, told AA.
He added that ten heavily-armed soldiers stormed Al-Qibali Mosque inside the compound and reached Saladin Minbar (Pulpit).
"Israeli forces closed the mosque with iron chains to secure settlers' intrusion," he added.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld tweeted that police forces dispersed "rioters, using stun grenades only."
"Situation on Temple Mount quiet after disturbances," and it is now open for visitors, he added using the Jewish term for the holy complex.
The Israeli authorities usually use the term "visitor" to refer to Jewish settlers who frequently force their way into the holy site.
Eyewitnesses also said that Israeli police also attacked dozens of worshippers and religious students outside the complex in the Old City of East Jerusalem.
"The Israeli police fired stun grenades at dozens of worshippers and religious students who gathered at Hatta Gate in the Old City," one witness told AA.
Israeli police barred Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, from entering the city's flashpoint Al-Asqa Mosque complex.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency by phone, al-Husseini said he had been slightly injured when Israeli forces assaulted him and a group of other Palestinian Muslim worshippers gathered at the northern entrance of the complex.
As al-Husseini spoke, gunfire and stun grenades could be heard in the background.
Israeli officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli forces barred Hanin Zoabi and Ibrahim Sarsur, two Arab-Israeli Knesset members, as well as Kamal al-Khatib, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, from entering the mosque complex.
The move came after Israel barred Muslim worshippers from entering the site while granting entry to extremist Jewish settlers.
Tension has been running high in East Jerusalem since Israel closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Thursday following the attack on Glick in the city.
Israeli authorities reopened Al-Aqsa on Friday following a day of violent clashes with Palestinian protesters, but barred male Muslim worshippers under 50 years old from entering the religious site.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, for his part, warned that the closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound constituted a "declaration of war" against the Palestinian people and their sacred places.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the "Second Intifada," a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
Last Mod: 05 Kasım 2014, 16:28