JERUSALEM Israeli police entered the compound of Jerusalem's holiest site to disperse Palestinians who were throwing rocks at them on Sunday, as thousands of tourists packed the Old City for the Easter and Passover holidays.
The compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism. Known to Muslims as the "Noble Sanctuary," it is Islam's third-holiest site. It is one of the most sensitive sites in the region.
Tensions have been high at the site for months and similar incidents play out almost every Friday after Muslim prayers. Sunday's violence erupted as thousands of tourists flocked to the area.
Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police arrested 16 masked Palestinians who threw rocks and firecrackers as the site was opened to tourists on Sunday. Two officers were hurt, he said.
Azzam Khatib, director general of the, Waqf, Jordan's Islamic authority that manages religious affairs at site, said the incident followed rumors that Moshe Feiglin, a nationalist lawmaker and member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, planned on visiting the site. Last month, Feiglin initiated a parliament debate about Israel extending sovereignty over the site. No decision was made but it only added to tensions over the area.
"If they will continue, these provocations, then tension and escalation will continue in the place," Khatib said.
"If any windows were broken at the mosque then it was done by the Palestinians who threw rocks and firecrackers," Rosenfeld, the Israeli police spokesman, said.
Israel captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 war. The compound with its holy sites is at the heart of the territorial and religious conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The fate of the holy city is one of the thorniest issues being discussed in floundering peace talks brokered by the U.S.