Palestinians Skirmish With Israeli Cops Escorting Jews on Temple Mount

Palestinians threw stones and fireworks at Israeli police officers, who responded by firing sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas, leaving at least one injured

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Police at Al-Aqsa, on Wednesday.
Police at Al-Aqsa, on Wednesday.Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA - AFP

Dozens of Palestinians clashed with police forces at Jerusalem's Temple Mount on Thursday morning after hundreds of Jews attempted to reach the site with police protection.

Palestinians shot fireworks and threw stones at the police, barricading themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the ensuing clashes. The police responded by firing sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas at the Palestinians, injuring at least one, according to Palestinian reports.

Thursday marks the last day that Jewish visitors will be allowed to ascend to the Temple Mount until the end of the month of Ramadan, in ten days.

Meanwhile, Israel will impose a curfew on Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from 5 P.M. on Thursday until Saturday evening for the festival of Passover, though worshipers from the West Bank will be able to arrive at Al-Aqsa for Ramadan prayers.

On Wednesday, police arrested seven Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem on suspicion of involvement in throwing firebombs from the mosque at the police officers that day.

According to the police statement, one of the firebombs fell on the mosque's entrance carpet and caused a fire which was immediately extinguished.

Hamas’ political bureau chief, Ismail Haniyeh, responded to this morning's clashes and said "If Israel thinks that the continued desecration of the mosque will change its character, then they are greatly mistaken.

The right-wing Flag March in Jerusalem, on Wednesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

"What the settlers are doing in Al-Aqsa will lead to a direct confrontation in every sense," Haniyeh added.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi spoke about the situation surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque following a meeting between several Arab foreign ministers in Amman on Thursday. "The lack of a political horizon poses a substantial threat," he said in a press conference, adding that Jordan is "investing great efforts to calm the tensions in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa."

Following the conference, which was attended by ministers from seven Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority, a statement was issued demanding intervention by the UN Security Council to put an end to "Israeli aggression" at Al-Aqsa. The statement also asked to enforce decisions made by the council and the international community regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starting with an Israeli withdrawal back to the 1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In the statement, the ministers called on Israel to respect the status quo agreement in Al-Aqsa as it was up to October 2000, stressing that any visit by non-Muslims to the site should be subject to the approval of Jerusalem's Waqf, which is under the authority of the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf Islamic Affairs and Holy Places.

On Wednesday, 1,538 Jews visited the Temple Mount, in what organizations encouraging Jews to visit the holiest site in Judaism said was a record figure for the interim days of Passover. Three Jews were detained after they sang at the site, in violation of the status quo agreement which explicitly forbids Jews from praying at the Temple Mount.

The visits came just before hundreds of right-wing activists illegally marched toward the Old City's Muslim Quarter, with some 20 people managing to breach police barriers and reach Damascus Gate. The individuals were later turned back by police.

Police also arrested two Palestinians in the area, one on suspicion of throwing a bottle at security forces, and the other on suspicion of throwing stones.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke with his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed on Wednesday, with the Emirati foreign minister expressing his appreciation for the steps Israel is taking to calm tensions according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry, including halting the right-wing Flag March.

On the Emirati end, they said that Sheikh Abdullah "emphasized the significance of calming the situation and ceasing any practices that violate the sanctity of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque," as well as "the need to respect the legal and historical status quo of Jerusalem and to respect the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s guardianship over its holy places under international law."

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