At least one Israeli has been killed and 14 others injured, after a car rammed pedestrians in occupied Jerusalem, before the driver was shot dead by police, according to Israeli officials.
Police described Wednesday’s incident as a “hit-and-run terror attack” and said it took place in the same area as a similar attack two weeks ago, in which a Palestinian man rammed a car into a crowd killing a woman and a baby.
“A commercial vehicle hit and ran over pedestrians at a light rail station,” Luba Samri, police spokeswoman, said, indicating the incident took place on the seam line between west and occupied East Jerusalem.
After the car came to a halt, the driver, who was wounded, “got out of the vehicle and started to hit people with an iron bar”, she said.
He was shot by police who were in the area at the time, she said.
The incident comes amid continued tensions over right-wing Jewish demands to be able to pray inside the compound and the expansion of Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem.
In the East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, Palestianian demonstrators clashed with Israeli police, partially blocking a street and burning some trash.
Series of confrontations
Earlier Israeli security officers clashed with Palestinian protesters after far-right Israelis tried to storm the al-Aqsa mosque in the first of a series of confrontations in Jerusalem.
“There is still a lot of tension and a huge police presence here,” Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab reported from Jerusalem.
Israeli security forces briefly entered the al-Aqsa compound as clashes broke out between Palestinian protesters and far-right Israelis trying to enter the compound.
“In a rare move, we understand that Israeli security forces entered the mosque at al-Aqsa,” our correspondent said.
Israeli police told Al Jazeera that they had only entered briefly to close the door, but our correspondent said the move was likely to heighten tensions in the Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.
“These provocations, as it’s seen by Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque, will certainly not do anything to calm the situation.”
Israeli police said protesters threw stones and firecrackers at police officers minutes before the mosque compound opened.
“Police entered the area, pushed the masked rioters back, and they fled back into al-Aqsa. Police closed the front gate of the mosque but did not enter,” Micky Rosenfeld, Israeli police spokesman, said.
Daily clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the streets of East Jerusalem and the Old City compound have stoked fears of a new Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.
The al-Aqsa mosque is managed by Jordan as part of a 20 year old peace deal.
On Tuesday, Jordan recalled its ambassador in protest at what it calls “unprecedented Israeli escalation” in Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, who is in Amman, reported.
She also reported that Jordan is filing a formal complaint against Israel before the UN Security Council, on the al-Aqsa incident.
Situation still tense
Reuters television footage showed a few Israeli border policemen running through the compound while a group of Jewish worshippers and tourists waited outside to enter.
Al Jazeera’s Tyab said the situation was still tense even if the compound had been reopened.
He said Israeli action amounted to “a crackdown in occupied East Jerusalem”.
Israeli officers used stun grenades to disperse the crowd and the situation was now under control, Rosenfeld said.
Omar Alkeswani, a Palestinian manager of al-Aqsa, said police entered the compound and that 20 people were wounded in the clashes.
In an attempt to crack down on stone throwers, the Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved an amendment to the country’s criminal law that, if passed by the Knesset, would toughen punishments for those who throw objects at vehicles.
This change could mean prison sentences of up to 20 years. The proposed law must first go to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, followed by three Knesset votes.
If the bill goes through, it would allow for a punishment of 10 years in prison for throwing objects at a moving vehicle.
If it is proved that the offender meant to cause harm to the driver or passenger, then they could face up to 20 years in prison. Al Jazeera