JERUSALEM, JAN. 15 -- Israeli police for the first time fired tear gas into two of Islam's most sacred mosques as Palestinian worshipers demonstrated against the Israeli occupation after Friday prayers at the Temple Mount, according to witnesses.

Witnesses inside the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City said they saw Israeli police enter the Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest shrine, fire tear gas canisters and then club fleeing male worshipers.

They also reported women being clubbed as they emerged from the nearby Dome of the Rock.

Israeli police spokesman Rafi Levy said police fired tear gas after worshipers, observing a day of mourning for Palestinians killed in anti-Israel unrest, emerged from the mosques, burned the American and Israeli flags and unfurled the emblem of the outlawed Palestine Liberation Organization.

Levy said security forces entered the mosque because of riots inside, but he denied that tear gas was fired inside the building proper.

He said protesters beat a border policeman, stole his pistol and attempted to drag him into the mosque. The policeman was reported in serious condition with eye and back injuries.

Meanwhile, another Palestinian was fatally shot in the Gaza Strip after wounding an Israeli soldier with a knife, the Army said. His death brings to 37 the number of Palestinians killed since protests flared in the occupied territories on Dec. 9. Two other Palestinians were wounded in a stone-throwing incident near the West Bank town of Hebron.

Outside the Aqsa Mosque, Palestinians threw stones at police and chanted Arabic slogans. They also shouted, "Abu Ammar is our leader," invoking the nickname of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.

Police reportedly fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators for more than an hour.

Sources at Temple Mount's Makassad Hospital said doctors treated 80 to 90 Palestinians, including a four-month-old baby and a woman aged 70.

Witnesses saw more than a dozen worshipers taken away on stretchers. Police said at least eight Palestinians were arrested.

Lorenzo Cremonensi, correspondent of the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera, said he was inside the Aqsa Mosque "and saw soldiers enter and take more than 30 people, one by one, and beat them with batons," including an old man who was slammed against a wall and slapped around.

Cremonensi also said he saw police fire tear gas into the Aqsa Mosque while he was inside and later saw police throw tear gas into the Dome of the Rock, where the Koran says the Prophet Mohammad ascended to Heaven. The site is also regarded as holy to Jews as the location of Israel's biblical temples.

Canadian television cameraman Cris Slaney said he saw police force open the door and enter the Dome of the Rock, a mosque for women. Cremonensi later said he saw spent tear gas canisters on the floor of the women's mosque and blood stains on the steps outside.

Ed Tamimi, a 36-year-old American-naturalized Palestinian, said he was among the estimated 10,000 worshipers trapped inside the compound after a group of young Palestinians began to march from the mosque with the PLO flag. He said the security forces "didn't wait for more than like a minute" before moving against the demonstrators.

"I was inside the mosque. Tear gas did land inside the mosque. The people didn't know what to do. The police didn't differentiate between the demonstrators and those at prayer," Tamimi told the Chicago Tribune.

Another worshiper said demonstrators and peaceful worshipers "were all treated the same way" by baton-wielding police, who "didn't even give anyone a chance to put their shoes on." Worshipers must remove their shoes before entering a mosque.

An estimated 400 policemen brandishing shields and batons were deployed in the Old City by early morning. A helicopter flew overhead to monitor the violence.

In other disturbances in the occupied territories, security forces dispersed a demonstration after Friday prayers at a mosque in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian sources identified the man killed in Gaza as Ibrahim Mahmoud Abu Mahel, a 31-year-old father of six. The Army said the man had stabbed a soldier in the leg.

{In the village of Ksara in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, four West Bank Palestinians expelled by Israel on Wednesday set up tents opposite an office of the International Committee of the Red Cross and began a hunger strike in a bid to pressure Israel into letting them return, United Press International reported.}

In the West Bank town of Jenein, the Army said two Palestinians were arrested after they threw gasoline bombs at a patrol.

Six refugee camps remained under curfew on the West Bank and seven of eight in the Gaza Strip.