9 cops, reporter lightly hurt in J'lem

9 cops, reporter lightly

October 25, 2009 23:07
Jerusalem riots 248.88

Jerusalem riots 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Fears that Arab violence would erupt on or around the Temple Mount on Sunday materialized, as nine police officers were lightly injured and 21 rioters arrested during clashes between Arabs and police on the Mount, in the alleyways of the Old City's Muslim Quarter and in east Jerusalem A female Australian journalist was also injured during Sunday's unrest when she was struck in the head with a rock, apparently after being caught between rioters and security forces at an entrance to the Temple Mount in the Old City's Muslim Quarter. She was treated at the scene. The violence began around 8 a.m., after police security cameras recorded a number of Arabs on the Temple Mount gathering rocks together and pouring oil onto the ground to hinder the access of security personnel to the site. Following the discovery, police stormed the mount and were pelted with stones and a fire bomb by rioters. Police responded with stun grenades, among other means at their disposal, and after dispersing the rioters, tense calm was briefly restored to the area. Nonetheless, a police helicopter was seen repeatedly flying low over the Temple Mount throughout the morning, and at one point, a cleric on the mount, presumably inside the Aksa Mosque, was heard using the mosque's loudspeaker to call Muslims to the site in "defense of Al-Aksa." Security forces stormed the mount for the second time at around 11, after Arab rioters again began hurling rocks, as police officers were negotiating with Wakf Islamic trust officials in a bid to convince some 100 Muslim youths involved in the earlier violence to come out of the Aksa Mosque, where they had holed themselves up. Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said that the officers had promised not to arrest the young men if they descended from the mount peacefully. Forces didn't enter the mosque, but throughout the day, protesters inside occasionally opened the shuttered doors to throw various objects, such as chairs, at security forces. Palestinian medics accused Israel of preventing ambulances from reaching the area. Two rioters were seen being taken away with injuries, including an elderly man who was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet, but an official number regarding injured rioters was unavailable. By early afternoon, a group of young Arab men, their faces wrapped in T-shirts, had begun hurling rocks at police in the alleyways of the Muslim Quarter and setting garbage and pieces of wood on fire in the streets. A number of arrests were made throughout the Old City on Sunday, including an additional three rioters, who were taken in for questioning around 6 p.m. Clashes also erupted in the nearby neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, where again, a number of young Arab men, their faces wrapped with shirts, pelted border policemen with stones, and three rioters were arrested. That violence concluded shortly after midday. In all, 21 Arab rioters were arrested for disorderly conduct and attacking police officers. Among them were Ali Abu Sheikha, the third-highest ranking official from the Islamic Movement's northern branch, and senior Fatah official Hatem Abdel Kader, who was arrested on charges of attacking an officer and inciting the violence. Abdel Kader was arrested on charges of incitement during similar unrest in the capital over Succot. The former Jerusalem affairs adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been banished from the Old City for 15 days. In a press briefing on Sunday morning, Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen laid the blame for the flare-up of violence on the northern branch of the Islamic Movement. "Throughout the day, very large groups of Arab residents of east Jerusalem and other Israeli Arabs have come to the area at the encouragement of the Islamic Movement," he told reporters. "I urge [the Islamic Movement] to show restraint and not to incite." Cohen went on to say that police would deal with all rioters on the Temple Mount as well as those inciting the violence "with a strong hand." Police also released a separate statement blaming Hamas for inciting the violence in a bid to "disrupt order on the Temple Mount." Meanwhile, Hamas condemned Israel for "infiltrating the Aksa Mosque" and "defiling" it. The group also called on Palestinians to rise up against Israel, and for Arabs and Muslims worldwide to punish Israel. "The real battle begins again," declared the movement's spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. In the West Bank, the PA also blamed Israel for the unrest. "Jerusalem is a red line that Israel should not cross," Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas said on Sunday. Israeli Arab MKs also laid the blame on Israel for the escalation of tensions, as they had done during previous clashes. MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) said that Israel had "broken the law," complaining that he had waited 50 minutes to ascend to the Temple Mount. UAL-Ta'al MK Taleb a-Sanaa said that Israel was provoking "a billion Muslims" and sparking unnecessary riots by allowing "extremist elements to defile the mosque." National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari, stated that security forces may be taking the wrong tack. Israel was "forfeiting" the Temple Mount, he said, suggesting that a "Muslim autonomy" was being created in the capital. While police had said that they hoped to keep the Temple Mount open to worshipers despite the violence, the Temple Mount compound was closed to visitors and worshipers by 4 p.m. on Sunday, after police said that the remaining young men inside the Aksa Mosque had departed the site without incident. The already high alert level in the capital had come in response to what police said were previous calls by both Jewish and Islamic religious leaders to ascend the Temple Mount. Calls to Muslim worshipers to come to Jerusalem Sunday largely came from clerics in east Jerusalem and their counterparts from the northern branch of the Islamic Movement. While police had only generally referred to calls by "right-wing Jewish elements" for Jews to ascend the Temple Mount over the weekend, Sunday had been publicized as the day to commemorate the visit by Maimonides to the Temple Mount 843 years ago. In the past, Jews have ascended the mount to mark the anniversary. While there was no Jewish presence at the site on Sunday, and Jewish prayers at the Western Wall went on undisturbed, a conference was planned for Sunday evening in which a number of rabbis and politicians were to call upon the Jewish public to "assert their rights" on the Temple Mount, and arrive there "in purity."

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