JERUSALEM  - Clashes briefly broke out Friday between Israeli police and “hundreds” of Palestinian stone-throwers at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, police said.

“They threw stones towards the Maghrebi Gate and police went onto the plaza,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP, referring to the only entrance to the compound which can be used by non-Muslims.

“There are now hundreds of people throwing stones.”

Police said they used stun grenades against the demonstrators and that “dozens of people” had barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinian officials confirmed an unspecified number of people had barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque as well as the golden-topped Dome of the Rock, but the standoff ended peacefully after negotiations with the police.

“We are negotiating with the Israelis not to storm into the mosque or the Dome of the Rock and to let people out,” Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Jerusalem Waqf, told AFP.

Shortly afterwards, those inside the mosques left and the plaza was largely cleared, police and Waqf officials said

Police said four people had been arrested and 11 of their officers were “lightly injured from stones.”

Palestinian medics treated five protesters, some of whom were suffering from tear gas inhalation, and others who had been “beaten by the police,” while doctors at Maqassed hospital said they had seen four people, including one who was hit by a tear gas grenade.

The plaza is one of the most sensitive places in the Middle East.

It is referred to by Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif and considered the third holiest site in Islam, while it is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and is revered as Judaism’s most sacred site.

Witnesses told AFP police had also fired tear gas, forcing a number of women to run for cover inside the Dome of the Rock.

“We were praying when they started shooting tear gas towards us,” 58-year-old Umm Mohammad told AFP by telephone from inside the Dome of the Rock.

“At first, they were shooting at the Al-Aqsa mosque but we hid in the Dome of the Rock, and now they have started firing tear gas and sound bombs towards the gates,” she said.

“Women were terrified and screaming at first, but we got over it and started shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest),” she said.

The clashes followed nearly a week of unrest at the walled complex.

On Sunday, police used tear gas to disperse Palestinians who were throwing stones inside the compound, arresting 18 people.

Similar clashes erupted on Tuesday when two people were arrested after protesters hurled stones and shoes at police escorting Jewish and Christian visitors, leaving one officer slightly injured, police said.

And on Thursday, police arrested seven Palestinians for shouting insults at a group of Jews touring the site, fearing the confrontations would lead to further clashes.

Israeli warplanes launched two air strikes on the Gaza Strip early Friday, the military said, hours after Palestinian militants fired two rockets at southern Israel. “Israeli army aircraft thwarted an attempt by a terrorist squad to fire rockets at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip,” an army statement said.

Palestinian sources said two residents of the Zeitun neighbourhood were lightly wounded.

Hours later, the army said it carried out another strike on northern Gaza. On Thursday night, Palestinian militants fired two rockets at Israel, neither of which caused casualties or damage.