Police Storm Temple Mount to Disperse Palestinian Riot

Palestinians say 25 people hurt in clash with police, including one seriously; Israeli officer lightly hurt.

Fierce clashes continued for several hours on Wednesday between Israeli police officers and dozens of young Palestinians on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Some 25 people were wounded during the riot, Palestinians said, including one in serious condition and 15 with moderate injuries. One officer was lightly wounded amid stone-throwing by the protester.

As in a number of similar incidents in the past few years, young Palestinians had amassed rocks to use as missiles and barricaded themselves within the Al-Aqsa mosque, aware of the Israel Police policy of not entering the mosque.

The Palestinians lobbed rocks and firecrackers at the police through the mosque doors. As the police approached, they blocked the entrance with bookcases and other furniture. The police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the crowd or at least to push the protesters further into the mosque.

After the clashes subsided, the police allowed a number of groups of Jews onto the Temple Mount; hundreds of visitors were turned away.

Tensions on the Temple Mount, known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif, or “the Noble Sanctuary,” have increased recently, with barely a day passing without any incident in recent months. Most incidents involve Jews attempting to access the area in order to pray or demonstrate a Jewish presence. The growing strength of the Jewish Temple Movement and other organizations that seek to change the status quo on the Temple Mount has exacerbated these tensions, as has the crisis in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Goat sacrifice halted

On Passover Eve, Monday, once again a group of right-wing Jews was detained while trying to bring a goat up to the Temple Mount, in a revival of the ancient sacrifice ritual. A few days earlier, a goat was sacrificed in the city’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood.

Pesach is traditionally the most important holiday for the Temple renewal movements, and bringing a sacrifice to the Temple Mount on Passover has been one of their main aims, along the way to realizing their goal of renewing Jewish worship on the Temple Mount.

“The commandment of the Passover sacrifice is one of the most important commandments in Judaism, on par with circumcision. We believe that we can renew this practice without any changes to the mount, without infringing upon the rights of any Arabs in the area. It’s part of freedom of religions, and does not hurt anyone,” says Arnon Segal, a journalist for the Makor Rishon newspaper and a leading activist in the Temple movement.

“It’s hard to avoid the feeling that the police are okay with the riots, which allow it to easily explain why the rights of Jews are violated on the Temple Mount left and right,” Segal says.

The Jerusalem police said in a statement that despite the violence, efforts are under way to develop the Temple Mount for visitors, and a few hundred people did visit the mount. “We could have closed it down ahead of time, but we did everything we could to allow visitors to enter,” a Jerusalem police official said.