PA, Jordan blame Israel Police for Temple Mount riot

Dozens of masked Arab youths threw rocks, firebombs, fireworks, metal pipes, and concrete slabs at officers and tourists; 3 officers wounded, 9 Arabs arrested.

Rioting on Temple Mount, October 8, 2014. (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Rioting on Temple Mount, October 8, 2014.
Following what police are deeming a planned Wednesday morning Arab riot on the Temple Mount against officers and non-Muslim visitors, a police official on Thursday denied accusations by the PA and Jordan of Israeli religious incitement.
The violence took place at about 7:30 a.m. on the eve of Succot, when dozens of masked Arab youths threw rocks, firebombs, fireworks, metal pipes, and concrete slabs at officers and tourists upon opening the Mugrabi Gate entrance to the holy site.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, cops gleaned intelligence of an imminent attack to be carried out by Palestinians, who slept at the mosque the night before to orchestrate the assault and construct barricades to block responding officers.
“The facts are that Israel Police were prepared for morning disturbances on the day of Succot, as we were for Rosh Hashana,” Rosenfeld said on Thursday. “Special patrol and riot units were stationed upon opening Mugrabi Gate for hundreds of visitors when 50-80 masked Arabs, who stayed overnight, threw rocks, firecrackers, pipes, and firebombs at tourists and police.”
Numerous reports in Palestinian media corroborated Rosenfeld’s claim of a premeditated attack ordered by a prominent Muslim cleric.
After dismantling an Arab-made roadblock obstructing the gate, Rosenfeld said police promptly responded using non-lethal force, including stun grenades, to push the rioters into al-Aksa Mosque.
“It is police policy to not enter the mosque, so we locked its doors in order to contain the disturbances,” he said. “While suspects continued to throw flammable liquids at police through the windows, officers were able to eventually contain the violence and allow the hundreds of visitors to proceed touring the Temple Mount from 8 a.m.-11 a.m.”
Rosenfeld said three officers were lightly wounded during the melee, which also resulted in nine Palestinian arrests.
Despite the preconceived nature of the riot, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday accused “extremists and the settlers who are supported by the Israeli government” of attempting to turn the conflict into a religious war, rather than a political one.
“These Israeli acts [are] trying to make the conflict here a religious one,” Abbas said during a press conference from his Ramallah presidential compound hours after the officers were attacked. “They, as well as us, and the whole world, know the danger of using religion in political conflicts.”
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by Jordan’s government – whose Wakf Islamic religious trust has overseen the holy site since the 1967 Six Day War – a spokesman said Israeli police targeted Muslim parishioners in order to allow the tourists to proceed.
“The forces of the occupation prevented religious officials from entering [the compound] and cleared it of all Muslims, while at the same time enabling Jewish extremists to storm it and pray with security forces protection,” Muhammad Momeni told AFP.
Momeni went on to say dozens of Muslims were injured during the rioting and demanded that Israel “stop its devastating campaign against al-Aksa mosque, religious officials and worshipers.”
Rosenfeld, however, resolutely affirmed the attack was planned and unprovoked, adding that no Palestinians were injured. Moreover, Rosenfeld said police will continue to ensure Jewish safety throughout Succot.
“Police will continue to implement security measures in and around the Old City with an emphasis on the Temple Mount,” he said of the holiday, which is expected to draw thousands of Jews to the Western Wall.
Reuters contributed to this report.