Clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli police on Temple Mount early morning on the second Friday of Ramadan and the first night of Passover.
This Friday, April 15, was the second during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the first night of Judaism’s week-long Passover holiday, and Good Friday, when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Spiking tensions, threats of terror and the observance of major holidays all converge around Temple Mount, the flashpoint holy site. At the same time, a series of recent deadly terror attacks committed by Palestinians prompted countermeasures from Israeli security forces across the West Bank, including arrests during which at least 16 Palestinians were killed.
According to police reports, at around 4 am Friday morning, dozens of young people began marching in the area, some bearing the Palestinian flag, others carrying green banners associated with the Hamas terror group. The marchers threw stones and set off fireworks, while stockpiling rocks and other objects to prepare for further clashes. Some Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, from where they hurled stones toward officers.
The police waited for morning prayers to end before entering the Temple Mount at around 6.30 am to disperse the rioters. Three officers suffered light injuries during the clashes, while there were 158 injured Palestinians reported by the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency group.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry released a statement clarifying that contrary to fake reports, officers did not enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism.
Nevertheless, later on Friday morning the police officers did enter the mosque and detained several Palestinians. According to the director of the mosque and a police source, around 400 Palestinians were detained. The site was reopened to worshipers, after “all the violators of public order were dispersed and arrested.” Reports said that Palestinian Authority security forces were cooperating with their Israeli counterparts and most of the Palestinian public is not expected to take to the streets.
In footage from the police raid circulated on social media, officers could be seen hitting some Palestinians with clubs for no apparent reason. The Hamas terror group said in a statement that Israel would bear the consequences of its “brutal assaults.”
The site is the emotional epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and tensions there can easily snowball into wider conflagrations. This week, the Returning to the Mount Jewish extremist group sent tensions soaring by publicly encouraging ritual sacrifices for Passover on the Temple Mount, and not for the first time. While Jews are allowed to visit the compound, they are not allowed to pray or perform religious rituals, as part of a delicate status quo. The social media post of the group drew threats from Hamas and condemnation from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Israeli authorities vowed to stop any attempts to bring sacrificial animals to the complex, as they always have in past years.
Although Israel assured Hamas that it will prevent any sacrifices happening on Mount Temple, on Thursday, Hamas and other Gaza terror groups said in a joint statement, “We are declaring a general mobilization in all places where our people are located. We are calling on the masses to come out in the hundreds of thousands to protect our nation and our mosque,” claiming they didn’t trust Israel’s reassurance.
Following the terror attacks of recent weeks and Hamas’s call for an escalation against Israel on Thursday, thousands of police officers and hundreds of soldiers have been sent to the capital to boost security on the streets and in crowded places.
Original article with video footage: The Times of Israel
Photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP