Clashes break out as nearly 1,000 Jews visit Temple Mount on Independence Day

Dozens of rioters threw stones and other items at police officers securing Jewish group visits to the Temple Mount, lightly injuring one.

 An Israeli security officer looks on at Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An Israeli security officer looks on at Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Clashes broke out between Arab visitors and Israeli security forces at the Temple Mount on Thursday, as 950 Jews visited the site on Independence Day after a nearly two-week closure.

Arab rioters threw stones and other objects at police, lightly injuring two officers, as security forces guarded the Jewish visitors. Arabs at the site shouted and cursed at the Jewish visitors.

The Jerusalem Post joined the Jewish visits on Thursday morning as hundreds of Jewish visitors entered the site. Police rushed the groups of visitors through the complex quickly, not allowing them to stop at points where they usually stop to give short sermons and pray silently.

According to the Temple Mount Administration, the number of Jewish visitors was nearly four times larger than the number on the Independence Day before the coronavirus outbreak.

The group that the Post joined, as well as a number of other groups that visited on Thursday, repeatedly refused to listen to police instructions and sang prayers and the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva.” This was despite repeated requests by officers to follow police regulations that forbid noticeable prayer and any national symbols. Some activists also succeeded in waving Israeli flags at the site before being quickly removed by police.

 A group of Jewish visitors walk across the Temple Mount, escorted by Israel Police while Palestinians riot in the background. (credit: TZVI JOFFRE) A group of Jewish visitors walk across the Temple Mount, escorted by Israel Police while Palestinians riot in the background. (credit: TZVI JOFFRE)

Police stressed that they worked to secure and maintain order on the Temple Mount on Thursday, as dozens of Arab rioters began shouting slogans and disturbing the public order. The rioters were soon pushed into the Qibli building at al-Aqsa, where they threw objects at police, shouted and slammed on the doors in an attempt to frighten Jewish visitors.

The Jews present largely ignored the riots and shouting and continued singing despite repeated police requests to stop.

Police warned against attempts by terrorist organizations and other parties to spread incitement and “fake news” concerning the situation on the Temple Mount. “These are false publications that have no grip on reality and are published to deceive the public, escalate and incite,” a police representative said.

Police reiterated that their regulations concerning permitting Muslim prayer and prohibiting Jewish prayer have not changed and are not expected to change. Twenty one suspects were arrested.

“Anyone who disturbs the order, [or] incites violence, riots and acts of violence of any kind will be treated harshly and with zero tolerance,” the police warned.

Yamina MK Yomtob Kalfon and former Likud MK Yehuda Glick were among the visitors to the site on Thursday. Glick is the head of Haliba, “The project for Jewish freedom on the Temple Mount.”

Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif Al-Qanou warned on Tuesday that if Jews were allowed to enter the site on Thursday, it would be a “detonator for a new confrontation” with Israel. He called on Arabs and Palestinians to arrive at the Temple Mount to confront Jewish visitors. The movement warned on Wednesday that Israel was “playing with fire and dragging the region into an escalation, for which the occupation bears full responsibility.”

Jewish visitors walk across the Temple Mount while Palestinian rioters yell in the background (Credit: Tzvi Joffre).

Despite the drastic increase in open Jewish prayer, the singing of the national anthem and the waving of the Israeli flag – all of which the Palestinian factions had called “red lines” – Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh stated on Wednesday afternoon that Arabs at the site had “defeated” the Jews who visited, saying they entered the site with “fear” and “were disgraced.”

Tensions remain high in Jerusalem

A large Hamas banner featuring a greeting for Eid al-Fitr and a photo of a Hamas terrorist was raised on the Temple Mount on Monday morning, as more than 200,000 Arabs visited the site to celebrate the end of the Ramadan month of fasting. The banner was removed shortly after it was raised and one of the people responsible for raising it was arrested later in the day, according to police.

Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, warned Israel against “attacking” al-Aqsa Mosque, claiming that the movement would fire a barrage of 1,111 rockets in the next conflict with Israel.

“Our people and our nation must prepare for a big battle if the occupation does not stop attacking al-Aqsa Mosque,” said Sinwar. “Harming al-Aqsa and Jerusalem means a regional war, and we will not hesitate to take any decision with our sanctities.”

The Hamas leader addressed the other Palestinian factions in Gaza, saying that they must be on alert “because the battle did not end with the end of Ramadan, but will really begin with its end.”