On Tisha B'Av, Islamist Party Vows to Defend Al-Aqsa 'With Our Bodies' as Jews Visit Temple Mount

Hamas calls on Palestinians to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque at the complex and remain until Tuesday's Eid al-Adha holiday prayers ■ Five protesters arrested

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Jewish worshipers visiting Jerusalem's Temple Mount, today.
Jewish worshipers visiting Jerusalem's Temple Mount, today. Credit: Hozrim Lahar NGO

The United Arab List party condemned on Sunday a visit by hundreds of Jews to Jerusalem's Temple Mount compound in observance of Tisha B'Av, adding to criticism by the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

The party, which is part of the governing coalition, said that "the people of the UAL and the activists of the Islamic Movement will defend the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque with their bodies." It further said that it had tried to convince the government to stop the entry of Jewish visitors to the site.

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The Palestinian Authority called the visit "a dangerous Israeli escalation." A statement issued by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' office said it was "a serious threat to the security and stability" and offensive to the feelings of Palestinians.

Jewish worshippers pray at the Temple Mount compound this morningCredit: Waqf Muslim Religious Trust

"The government of Israel bears responsibility for this escalation," the statement read, citing Joe Biden administration's request to uphold the status quo on the compound. 

On Sunday morning, roughly 1,300 Jews visited the Temple Mount. Early Sunday morning, Palestinians clashed with police officers on the Temple Mount plaza. Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning and fasting that commemorates the destruction of the ancient temples in Jerusalem.

The police said that several young men had thrown stones at the police, who then dispersed the demonstrators at the scene. Five protesters were arrested, and according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, several demonstrators were lightly injured in the confrontation. 

Jordan's Foreign Ministry said Amman had sent a letter of protest over the events, while the ministry's spokesman issued a statement saying Jordan strongly condemned Israel's behavior. 

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning "any Israeli violations" and warning against any damage to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

A spokesman for the ministry, Ahmed Hafez, said Israel must ensure freedom of worship for Muslims at the holy site, as well as "avoid any provocation" that would risk stability there.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett conducted a situation assessment with regard to the Temple Mount on Sunday morning, attended by Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev and police commissioner Kobi Shabtai.

The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying that Bennett issued a directive that "Jews' visits to the Temple Mount continue in an orderly and safe [fashion] while maintaining order at the site."  A subsequent statement from Bennett thanked Bar-Lev and Shabtai for their handling of the events. 

Mohammed Hamadeh, a Hamas spokesman in Jerusalem, issued a call on Sunday morning for Palestinians to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque plaza at the complex in large numbers and to remain there until Tuesday's Eid al-Adha holiday prayers.

"The Israeli government's giving freedom of action to settlers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound doesn't constitute proof of Israeli sovereignty, rather the opposite," Hamadeh said. "It involves a clear sign of Israeli helplessness, and the Palestinian people always have heroes ready and waiting to defend Al-Aqsa."

Joint List Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, who visited the mosque on Sunday, called the visits by Jews to the Temple Mount "a serious escalation planned in advance."

In reference to flash points of tension in East Jerusalem in May that preceded the rocket fire by Hamas at the Jerusalem area, the chairman of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh said: "A month after the Flag March, the [new Israeli] government of change is continuing with the violence and the suppression at Al-Aqsa, the Damascus Gate and Sheikh Jarrah. But [weapons] fire, clubs and stun grenades just reinforce the simple truth: There is an entire people here under occupation who have the right to be freed from it."

The council of Jerusalem's Waqf Muslim religious trust issued a statement condemning what it said were "provocative steps and serious harm to the feelings of Muslims and worshippers, on this holy day of all times, when Muslims are preparing for Eid al-Adha." The actions "are liable to spark fire and religious war," the statement added. 

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