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Al-Aqsa on lockdown after incendiary device sets Israeli police position ablaze

Israel's forces violently confront Palestinian worshippers and shut down the historic Damascus Gate into the Old City
Tensions have been rising in the Al-Aqsa compound for weeks (AFP)

Israeli military police have placed the Al-Aqsa compound on lockdown and violently confronted Palestinian worshippers after an incendiary device set fire to a police position in the holy site, local media reported on Tuesday.

Tensions at the Al-Aqsa compound have been rising for days over Israeli military infractions on the sensitive holy site.

On Tuesday, an incendiary device set alight an Israeli police position near the Dome of the Rock shrine inside the compound.

An Israeli fire engine arrived at the scene within 10 minutes of the blaze igniting and the fire was controlled, witnesses posted on social media.

Around the same time physical confrontations broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinians at the site.

Videos circulated on social media show Israeli forces arresting several protesters and violently attacking women.

The Israelis then shut the compound's gates and prevented Palestinians from entering the Old City through the Damascus Gate, a major entrance to the ancient walled area.

The clashes come after weeks of tension over Bab al-Rahmeh and Bab al-Tawbeh, two areas used by Muslims to pray inside Al-Aqsa compound.

The areas had been off limits for 15 years after an Israeli court in 2003 ordered them shut.

However, in February Palestinians opened the areas, breaking Israeli locks on an outer metal door that leads to them.

Palestinians see Israeli restrictions on the areas as an attempt to cut them from the rest of the Al-Aqsa compound, and turn it into a site where Jewish Israelis can pray.

In recent weeks Bab al-Rahmeh and Bab al-Tawbeh have been used by Palestinian Muslims as areas to pray, with prayer carpets laid on the ground.

Last week, members of the Israeli police entered the Bab al-Rahmeh prayer area with their boots on, an act considered by Palestinians as a desecration, leading to protests.

Also last week, Israel attempted to force Jordan, which manages the Al-Aqsa compound, into restricting Palestinians from using the area for praying.

Palestinians have refused, calling for mass protests under the banner: "They will not steal our victory, Bab al-Rahmeh is ours".