After a few months of relative calm at the Temple Mount compound, violence was reported at the Jerusalem site Sunday morning, with dozens of Palestinians youths barricading themselves at the Al Aqsa Mosque and clashing with Israel Police forces sent to the scene.
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During the altercation, police eventually stormed the mosque itself. An unknown number of officers were wounded, and three East Jerusalem residents were arrested for allegedly throwing rocks at Border Police.
Jerusalem police said they received information about Arab youths barricading themselves within the mosque overnight Saturday to confront police and prevent visits to the holy site on Tisha B’Av – the Jewish day of remembrance for the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
According to the police, the youths - a number of whom where masked - collected stones, wooden planks, fireworks and firebombs, and even set up makeshift barricades to prevent the mosque's doors from being shut and to allow them to confront the police.
According to the police, the clashes broke out after the Palestinians began throwing stones and shooting fireworks at Border Police and police forces that arrived at the mosque's entrance. Afterwards, the youths fled into the mosque, throwing stones and bricks at the forces from within, and firing fireworks at them. An unidentified liquid was also thrown at the police.
A number of police officers eventually entered the Al Aqsa Mosque, successfully dismantling the makeshift barricades blocking the entrance. Israel Police make an effort to rarely enter the flashpoint mosque. Afterwards, the Temple Mount compound was opened as scheduled to visitors.
In a statement, the Jerusalem police said they would "continue to have zero tolerance towards any attempt to disrupt the order and harm the status quo," and said the police would arrest anyone rioting at the site and would work to bring them to justice to the fullest extent of the law.
President Reuven Rivlin responded to the event, saying that such "acts of violence and terrorism must be condemned unequivocally.
“I express my support for the security forces, and for their determination to prevent any harm or interference to the prayers at the Western Wall, the remnant of our Temple. Such acts of hatred cannot be tolerated and we will not allow any disturbances to prevent Jews from praying at this holy site,” he said in a statement.
Palestinians clash with Israel Police at Temple Mount. July 26, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Jerusalem police)
In a different incident reported Sunday morning at the Temple Mount, a Jewish youth was arrested for refusing a police demand to undergo a search at the site. The police said that the youth was first asked to remove his tefillin, but he kept moving towards the Temple Mount. Afterwards, a number of police officers approached him and requested he return to the security stand at the entrance where police were conducting body searches, but he refused, even biting one of the officers. He was taken in for questioning by the police.
The Temple Mount - which Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary - is the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and while it is under Israeli police control, it is ordinarily off-limits to Jews for religious and security reasons.