The Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City was again the scene of violent acts perpetrated by mostly young Muslims who attacked Jews and Israeli security personnel in the run-up to Rosh Ha-Shana (Jewish New Year 5766) and during the festival.
The violence started on Sunday when Israeli security forces entered the Temple Mount to search for a weapons cache that contained primitive weapons such as slings but also pipe bombs. The police acted after the Israeli Internal Security Service Shin Beth alerted the authorities.
Muslims on the Temple Mount and elsewhere in Jerusalem reacted with violent riots in which several Israeli citizens were wounded. While entering the Temple Mount masked Muslims attacked the security forces with fireworks, rocks and Molotov cocktails and later barricaded themselves in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. During the raid, the police found the weapon cache and a number of pipe bombs.
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The Israeli action led to widespread condemnation by Arab leaders and Muslim countries and was later also condemned by the State Department that condemned “all acts of violence”.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas called the raid an “attack on the El-Aqsa mosque” and said that Israel had crossed a red line. A statement from Abbas’ office read, “The presidency strongly condemns the attack by the occupier’s military and police against the al-Aqsa Mosque and the aggression against the faithful who were there.”
The Arab League poured oil on the fire by issuing an inciting statement that warned against the “Judaization of al-Aqsa (mosque) by Israel.” The statement contained a warning to Israel not to allow Jewish visitors to pray “inside the mosque” and not to allow “extremist settlers (a reference to religious Jews) to break in and hurt the sanctity of the site.”
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Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu tried to calm the situation when he issued a statement that assured Muslims and the international community that Israel would maintain the status quo on the site. He meant that the Waqf will continue to control the site and that non-Muslims will not be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount which is the Holiest site in Judaism and has significant religious meaning for Christians as well. It didn’t help, however.
On Monday, violence continued and spread to other parts of Jerusalem. Several Israeli citizens and police officers were wounded by rock-throwing Muslims and one Israeli Jew died of his injuries when his car was stoned in the East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Armon HaNatziv.
The man, Alexander Levlovitz, 64, lost control over his car after it was pelted with stones and crashed into an electricity pole. He and two other relatives were on their way home after a Rosh Ha Shana dinner with his family.
His son, Nir wrote on his Facebook page “My father was murdered by rock throwers today”.
On Tuesday, violence on the Temple Mount started early, when police tried to open the Mughrabi Gate close to the Western Wall (Wailing Wall). This is the only gate through which non-Muslims are allowed to go up to the Temple Mount. Muslim youths that had barricaded themselves in the Al-Aqsa mosque attacked police forces on the bridge leading up to the gate and tried to prevent the opening of the gate. Security forces then entered the Temple Mount, dispersed the mob and cleared the site of barricades and rubble. Two Muslims were arrested, and five Israeli police officers were lightly injured.
The Arab league gathered in Cairo Tuesday to discuss the situation in Jerusalem. After the meeting Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir issued a sharp worded warning to Israel (that he called the “Zionist enemy”) to not try to “seize” the El Aqsa mosque. He said that action will be taken“at all levels to confront any act of aggression carried out by the Israeli occupation or the Israeli settlers against Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The U.S. State Department used the Muslim name for the Temple Mount when it condemned “all acts of violence” on the al-Haram al-Shariff.
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“The United States is deeply concerned by the increase in violence and escalating tensions surrounding the (al-)Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. We strongly condemn all acts of violence. It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint,” read the statement.
The European Union issued a similar statement that warned against “any provocation” at the site of the El Aqsa mosque.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is convening the Israeli security cabinet on Tuesday evening to discuss emergency measures that would put an end to the violence, and that will secure safe visits for non-Muslims at the Temple Mount. One of the measures that has already been taken is a ban on two Muslim groups who were harassing Jews in the old city and on the Temple Mount.
Meanwhile, violence has spread to the West Bank where, in the vicinity of the Palestinian city of Tulkarm, 170 Palestinian Arabs rioted and threw firebombs and rocks at the security fence.
The Hebrew language news site HaKol HaYehudi recorded 4000 acts of violence committed by Palestinian Arabs over last year (Hebrew calendar 5775).
The wave of minor and major terror acts (termed “the silent Intifada” by Kol HaYehudi) that started in the summer of 2014 after the murder of three Jewish youths by Hamas, and an Arab minor by Jewish extremists in Jerusalem has cost the lives of 19 Israeli citizens and wounded 468 others.
Opposition leader Yitzchak Herzog called the explosion of violence in Jerusalem “a war of knives, stones and vehicular attacks.”
“Jerusalem is burning, and it has been for several months,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
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