For the first time in years, Palestinians have hurled rocks from the Temple Mount compound onto the Western Wall plaza – the latest friction at the site ahead of the end of Ramadan. A 73-year-old woman suffered a light head wound.
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The month of Ramadan came this year after a period of relative calm in Jerusalem. Passover, Jerusalem Day and the Palestinians’ Nakba Day passed quietly on the Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and which Muslims know as the Noble Sanctuary.
Based on unofficial talks between Israel and Jordan at the end of last year, small groups of Jews have been allowed to visit the compound during visiting hours, but Jews muttering prayers have been removed and detained.
Against this backdrop, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan needed to decide whether to continue the policy implemented over the last four years: During the particularly holy final days of Ramadan, Jews and non-Muslim tourists are banned from the compound.
These 10 days began Sunday, and Erdan decided to let Jews continue visiting. He may have been worried about criticism from the right.
The Palestinians say this constitutes a breach of the status quo regarding prayer on the Temple Mount, and violence broke out Sunday between Palestinian youths and policemen. Two Muslim tourists from Britain were arrested there on suspicion of throwing stones.
Guardians of the Temple Mount mosques tried to prevent stone throwing, but they didn’t always succeed. Some youths remained in the compound Sunday night, as during previous bouts of violence. Social media on Monday contained cries of “Defend Al-Aqsa.”
The events of recent days are reminiscent of the events that triggered the knifing, shooting and car-ramming attacks that began in the fall, sparked in part by a misinterpretation of Israeli intentions regarding the status quo. The police’s decision to shut the compound to Jews and tourists until the end of Ramadan appears to be a preemptive step.