At least seven Palestinians were arrested Sunday morning on the Temple Mount for rioting against Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel’s scheduled tour of the contested holy site, police said.
Upon learning of Ariel’s visit, teens wearing face masks threw stones and firecrackers at visitors and police at approximately 7:30 a.m.
“As soon as visitors entered they attacked them and police, who were forced to utilize non-lethal riot control,” a police spokesman said after the rioting. “No officers were injured during the riot and the Temple Mount remained open with limited access, to protect visitors.”
Undeterred by the violence, Ariel participated in a highly restrictive and brief tour, accompanied by a police detail.
Following his tour the minister said he would continue to visit the holy site and called for Jewish sovereignty over it.
“The reality in which rioters control the agenda on the Temple Mount and prevent Jews from accessing the area is not acceptable,” he said. “I went up the Mount this morning and I intend to continue to do so in the future, and I call on the security forces to help maintain Jewish sovereignty and allow any Jew to access the Temple Mount.”
Following the riot, Jerusalem city councilor and east Jerusalem portfolio holder Meir Margalit condemned Ariel’s visit as a “clear provocation,” and attempt to sabotage foundering peace negotiations.
“I’m not surprised that someone like Uri Ariel would make this kind of provocation because he is doing everything he can to undermine peace negotiations,” said Margalit on Sunday.
“We know that all these right-wing groups will try to create a chaotic situation as we get closer to April when [US Secretary of State] John Kerry will present his plan.”
Moreover, Margalit accused the Right and police of colluding to derail the peace talks.
“I am very worried about this attitude because I know this is not a partisan initiative,” he said. “The government and police are behind this and support this action, which could result in a big explosion [at] the Temple Mount.”
Margalit continued, “The risk that negotiations will collapse is very high.”
Last month, riots broke out on the Temple mount after Friday prayers, when hundreds of Palestinians attacked officers with rocks. The violence came one day after police closed the holy site to Jews to avert another riot, following numerous anonymous threats from Arabs of imminent violence should any Jews ascend.
The incident was followed by a plenum discussion of Israeli sovereignty over the holy site, during which MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu) contended that “the State of Israel is pointless without the Temple Mount.”