Police trapped dozens of Arab rioters at the Aksa Mosque for hours on Monday after the mob collected rocks, fireworks and firebombs in order to confront police and disturb Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.
The rioters set up barricades at the entrance to the Aksa Mosque. Police removed the barricades while under attack from a barrage of rocks, pushed the hooligans toward the mosque and locked them inside. Four suspects were arrested.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said many of the rioters were members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
Arab protesters accused Israel of being a “terror state” and of harming the mosque.
United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon complained about Israel’s handling of the situation on the Mount in statements he made in Ramallah and at a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the capital.
“I am deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem,” the secretary-general said. “These only inflame tensions and must stop.”
The prime minister used the UN chief’s statement as an opportunity to educate him and the world about what has been going on at the Temple Mount.
“I’m committed and Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo exactly as it’s been for many decades,” he said. “What we’re seeing are Palestinian extremists who are instigating violence through incitement. The incitement is spread by false and baseless rumors that we are threatening the Muslim holy places. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Netanyahu said Israel would continue to scrupulously maintain the protection of the holy sites and the right of all religions to worship in their holy places.
“That freedom was actually guaranteed only after Israel reunified the city of Jerusalem in 1967,” he said. “In fact Israel is the only country in the Middle East that fully, unstintingly, continuously and constantly protects the freedom of worship and the access to the holy sites of worship.”
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who intends to run against Netanyahu for the Likud leadership, said there is one group whose religious freedom is not guaranteed by Israel: Jews, who are prevented from praying on the Temple Mount.
Feiglin brought dozens of followers to the Mount on Monday morning, among 250 visitors to the site. Their visit passed without incident because police had restored order before the Mount was opened to Jews. The MK said the police should have taken action earlier, rather than close the holiest place in Judaism to Jews for four days.
“For the first time since the Succot holiday began, the police pushed the Arab rioters inside the Aksa Mosque, blocked additional rioters from accessing the site and cleared the Temple Mount for Jewish visits,” Feiglin said after his visit.
“The ascent to the courtyards of our Temple should be accompanied by joyous song, drums and musical instruments.
Instead, we heard small explosions and shots being fired into the air by riot police, who were blocking the rioters from exiting the mosque. The Temple Mount must be thoroughly cleared of the wild rabble. They should not be allowed to step foot on the Mount and should not be able to seek refuge in their ‘holy’ places.”
Aharonovitch told reporters at the Western Wall that in the future, he would consider that if the Temple Mount must be closed to Jews for security reasons, it will be closed to Muslims too.