A Jewish settler on Tuesday attacked a Palestinian woman outside East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, as Israeli police barred Muslim worshippers from entering the holy site.
Israeli authorities restricted the entry of Muslim worshippers into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound while allowing dozens of Jewish settlers – backed by police – into the complex through the Al-Magharbeh Gate, an Anadolu Agency correspondent reported from the scene.
Dozens of Palestinian women protested against the restrictions outside the mosque compound's Al-Silseleh Gate, chanting slogans against the Israeli occupation.
"May our souls be sacrificed for the Al-Aqsa [Mosque]!" they shouted in unison. "Don't despair; Allah is with us!"
A Jewish settler attempted to head-butt a Palestinian woman as he exited the complex through the same gate. Jewish settlers from nearby homes, meanwhile, spat at the Palestinian demonstrators from their windows.
Ikrema Sabri, an imam at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and former mufti for the Palestinian territories, was also denied entry into the mosque's precincts by Israeli police.
Israeli police forcibly restrained Sabri when he tried to argue against the restrictions.
Israeli forces also arrested a Palestinian youth at the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem's Old City and tried to prevent journalists from filming the incident.
Tuesday's disturbances took place only one day after Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinian demonstrators protesting the Al-Aqsa restrictions.
Israeli soldiers used stun grenades and teargas to disperse the protesters.
At least 20 Palestinians – most of them women – were hurt in Monday's clashes, a Palestinian Red Crescent official told AA.
At a meeting with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "committed, and Israelis are committed, to maintaining the status quo" at the flashpoint holy site, "exactly as it's been for many decades."
He went on to blame recent tension at the site on "Palestinian extremists," who, he claimed, were "instigating violence through incitement."
"The incitement," he asserted, "is spread by false and baseless rumors that we are threatening the Muslim holy places. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Earlier, Ban, currently on a regional tour, voiced concern over what he described as "provocations" in occupied Jerusalem. He made the statement hours after clashes erupted between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Speaking to a press conference in Ramallah with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Ban said he was "deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem. These only inflame tensions and must stop."
Ban's statements came after Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin forced his way – under heavy Israeli police protection – into the Al-Aqsa compound on Monday.
The intrusion came amid clashes between Muslim youth and Israeli police, the latter of which stormed the holy site in the early hours of the morning and tried to forcibly evict Palestinian worshippers from the area.
In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers – usually accompanied by Israeli security forces – have repeatedly forced their way into the holy site.
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 prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
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.
The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous "Balfour Declaration," called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank 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.
Palestinians, for their part, continue to demand the establishment of an independent state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem – currently occupied by Israel – as its capital.
By Turgut Alp Boyraz