Three police officers were injured Wednesday morning during what officials deem to have been a premeditated riot on the Temple Mount when dozens of masked Palestinians used a stockpile of weapons hidden in the Aksa Mosque to attack officers and hundreds of visitors.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the rioting began shortly after 7:30 a.m. when police opened the Mugrabi Gate entrance to the contested holy site for visitors, and officers were pelted by rocks, fireworks and firebombs.
“Between 30 and 40 masked Palestinians attacked the officers, who responded by using non-lethal weapons, including stun grenades, to disperse the crowd, which then fled inside al-Aksa Mosque,” he said.
While police removed barriers and blockades at the entrance of the mosque, three officers were lightly hurt by concrete blocks and fireworks thrown from inside, he said.
All three were treated at the scene and did not require hospitalization.
Rosenfeld said the arsenal of weapons clearly indicated a premeditated attack.
He flatly denied numerous media reports that officers had entered the mosque at any time.
After the violence abated, he said over 300 visitors toured the area without incident, adding that no arrests were made.
Following the rioting, Arab MKs confronted police who were barring visitors from entering the Temple Mount.
“You say we are terrorists and that we want to fight you,” MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) shouted to Border Police blocking her from accessing the area. “We want to live, to pray, to enter our schools, our home, our land. This is terrorism? To live is terrorism? To fight for our right to live is terrorism?” Zoabi compared police behavior toward her to the Holocaust.
“Someone did this to you, decades ago. Remember that? Somebody did rule over you and screwed you over decades ago. You did not learn the lesson,” she shouted.
“What is the lesson of the Holocaust? Don’t yell and don’t be racist, right? They killed six million of you. Why?”
Other MKs, including Balad leader Jamal Zahalka and Taleb Abu-Arrar of UAL-Ta’al, were blocked from entering the Temple Mount and al-Aksa when they arrived as part of a protest by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel, but were allowed in later, along with the general public.
Zahalka and Zoabi accused police of “playing with fire” for entering the mosque and said they had desecrated the place.
“Balad condemns the provocative entry of right-wing people to the Aksa Mosque and the disproportional action of the police. We call for them to immediately leave and not desecrate the mosque again,” Zahalka said.
Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) accused Zoabi of inciting to violence, saying: “She doesn’t miss an opportunity to harm the Jewish people and the interests of Israeli citizens.”
Regev called Zoabi a “Trojan horse in the Knesset” and called for Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to remove her parliamentary immunity.
Abu Arrar said the Aksa Mosque was holy only for Muslims and currently was “occupied territory.”
“The situation is very dangerous and can destabilize the region to more than a third intifada,” he warned. “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu talks about calm, but he helps MKs and ministers desecrate the mosque and be provocative.... He must calm the situation through actions.”
Abu Arrar added that if Jews continued to enter the site and “desecrate” it with their presence, Netanyahu would be responsible for the consequences.