Sporadic Arab rioting resumed in Jerusalem on Saturday, after the Temple Mount was reopened Friday morning following the attempted assassination of a right-wing rabbi and the police killing of his alleged Islamic Jihad assailant.
The violence, which has engulfed the capital since July, continues amid pleas from both Pope Francis and the US for peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arabs.
“Today’s liturgy talks about the glory of heavenly Jerusalem,” Francis said during All Saints’ Day in Vatican City on Saturday.
“I urge you to pray so that the Holy City – dear to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, which has experienced several tensions in these days – may be more and more a symbol and a precursor of the peace that God wishes for the entire human family.”
Despite the pontiff’s prayers, a Jewish man was attacked by an Arab teen near the Old City’s Nablus Gate on Saturday and a responding police officer was lightly wounded when a mob surrounded police placing the assailant under arrest, according to Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
The officer, who was struck by a piece of wood, was treated at the scene, while the Jewish man did not require medical assistance, Rosenfeld said. Rocks were also thrown at police during a Saturday riot in the capital’s mixed Jewish-Arab Abu Tor neighborhood, although there were neither arrests nor injuries.
“Police were able to disperse the crowd using non-lethal means,” Rosenfeld said. “Israeli police are going to continue to make security assessments throughout this week and implement strong security measures.”
After the Temple Mount was reopened Friday morning following Thursday’s forced closure – the first since the second intifada – Rosenfeld said “no incidents whatsoever” occurred on the contested holy site, as roughly 4,000 Muslim men, aged 50 and older, were allowed to pray there.
Over 1,000 policemen were deployed around the Old City and the gates to the Temple Mount, in addition to undercover anti-riot units and observation balloons floating in the sky.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said through his spokesman that the closure of al-Aksa, combined with other dangerous escalations by Israel, were “tantamount to a declaration of war.”
The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, later said Abbas had held a phone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry and that the Palestinian leader had praised Kerry’s efforts and those of Jordan’s King Abdullah “to stop the Israeli practices and halt the escalation.”
Israeli authorities shut all access to the Temple Mount for the first time in over 10 years Thursday after the Wednesday night shooting of Yehuda Glick, who has a long history of advocating for Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount.
Glick, 49, was shot four times as he left a conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, and remains in serious condition following emergency surgery at Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
The hospital reported Saturday night that there has been an “additional slight improvement” in Glick’s condition, as he continues to be attached to a respirator and under anesthesia. Doctors are ready to perform another operation on him on Monday to repair damage to internal organs if he continues to improve, the hospital said.
Convicted Arab terrorist Moataz Hejazi, an Islamic Jihad operative and kitchen worker at an upscale restaurant in the Begin Center who was suspected of shooting him, was killed by police in a shootout outside Hejazi’s Abu Tor home the same night.
Glick spoke at the center alongside MKs Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, Moshe Feiglin, and Miri Regev at an event titled “Israel Returns to the Temple Mount.”
Jordanian officials said Israel agreed to reopen the Temple Mount following the personal intervention of King Abdullah.
They said Abdullah had emphasized that any continued closure would only heighten religious tensions, deepening a political conflict.
In response to the controversial closure, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have called for violent resistance against the Israeli state.
The Palestinian Authority’s envoy to Washington, Ambassador Maen Areikat, warned on Thursday that Israeli extremists were “fueling a very dangerous religious conflict” with the closure. “Unless this is stopped immediately, the region will pay a very high price for Israel’s reckless policies,” Areikat said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein Saturday night that MKs should be responsible and show restraint when it comes to the issue of the Temple Mount.
Netanyahu asked that MKs act to encourage the public to be calm and that Edelstein relay the message to them.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also encouraged elected officials to “lower the flames,” slamming “ministers saying we will never give up land and declarations of construction [over the Green Line], also [by the prime minister].”
“We have the sovereignty, so we have the responsibility,” she said. “Both sides are responsible. Of course [Abbas’s] statements are becoming more religious, which is problematic. Words can lose control. He can lose control of the situation, and that would be very bad, but we are also responsible,” Livni told Channel 2’s Meet the Press.
According to Livni, extremists “signal ‘no, no, no’ from behind Netanyahu’s back while he speaks responsibly.”
“We must send a clear message against extremism within Israel and a message to the world that we want peace, but will protect our security,” she added.
On Sunday morning, Labor MKs Nachman Shai and Erel Margalit are to launch a campaign for tolerance and coexistence in Jerusalem at an emergency conference in the Knesset.
“Facing the extreme, populist Right and calls that endanger Jerusalem and its future, we are starting a journey and inviting every Jew and Arab in Israel who believes in coexistence and mutual respect to join us,” Shai and Margalit wrote in the invitation to the conference.
The two decided to hold the campaign launch in the Knesset, because it is the “heart of Israeli democracy” and plan to hold further events in Jerusalem and around the country.
Meanwhile, Kerry said Thursday night that the United States is “extremely concerned” by escalating tensions and increased violence across Jerusalem and condemned both Glick’s shooting and the Temple Mount’s subsequent closure.
“It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount – in word and in practice,” the secretary said.
“The continued commitment by Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians to preserve the historic status quo at this holy site is critical; any decisions or actions to change it would be both provocative and dangerous.”
“Politicians are stoking the flames and that is not the right situation,” Finance Minister Lapid said on Channel 2 News. “We must all be committed to responsible behavior.”
Michael Wilner, Judy Siegel and Reuters contributed to this report