JERUSALEM - Israeli police fired tear-gas and stun grenades on Sunday to disperse some 150 Palestinians who began hurling stones as foreign tourists visited a sensitive religious site in the Old City.
Nine policemen were hurt, a police spokesman said, and medics said 13 Palestinians were treated for injuries after the clash, which occurred as Jews prepared to celebrate their holiest day and police were on high alert at known flashpoints.
Protesters threw stones, chairs and whatever they could lay hands on as riot police rushed to the scene. Video showed them trying to drive police away from the doorway of the mosque, but there was no sign that police ever entered it during the clash.
One witness said police told him religious Palestinians at the holy site were angry over what they considered the immodest dress of some of the tourists, and grew violent after police ignored their complaints.
The disturbance occurred a few hours before the start of Yom Kippur (the solemn Jewish Day of Atonement) in the complex known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Harm al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).
Police restored calm and closed the Temple Mount complex, which is the size of a large city square. It includes al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and the Dome of the Rock, above the Jewish prayer site at the Western Wall.
Jewish visitors require special permission from Israeli police to visit the site and usually do so under guard. Israel also restricts access by Palestinian Muslim men under 50.
A spokesman for the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip described the incident as a Zionist crime and a provocation. Other Islamists in Gaza called for an uprising in revenge.
Israel captured the Temple Mount in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it with the rest of East Jerusalem, in a move not recognized internationally.
A visit to Al-Aqsa by then Israeli premier Ariel Sharon in 2000 enraged Palestinians, triggering the 2nd Intifada (uprising) which rapidly escalated, with suicide bomb attacks on Israeli civilians.
Outside Jerusalem on Sunday, Israeli police in mixed Arab-Jewish communities were on alert for Yom Kippur.
On the eve of the holiday last year, Jewish youths in the Israeli town of Acre attacked an Arab man who drove into a Jewish district, violating a 24-hour religious ban. Several homes and shops were damaged in ensuing riots.
Temple Mount is the most sacred site in Judaism. The gilded Dome of the Rock sits over the spot where Jews and Christians believe Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac to God before an angel stayed his hand.
In Muslim tradition, Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven from the rock at the center of what is now the Dome of the Rock. Al-Haram al-Sharif is the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina in modern Saudi Arabia.
(Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Ali Sawafta; Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Elizabeth Fullerton)