22 Palestinians arrested, 2 policemen hurt in Temple Mount clashes

Dozens of cops entered compound to disperse Palestinian worshipers who threw rocks after prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli police in front of Al Aqsa mosque 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Israeli police in front of Al Aqsa mosque 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Palestinian rioting near the Temple Mount before and during Rosh Hashana that led to 22 arrests was the result of an inflammatory speech last week calling for violence against Jews during the holidayby Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Raed Salah, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Saturday.
Salah’s sermon accused Israel of being behind the crisis in Egypt and throughout the Arab world and claimed Jerusalem police planned to set the Temple Mount alight during Rosh Hashana.
“Everything he said in that speech was to incite rioting on the Temple Mount, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Rosenfeld. “He called on Palestinians to cause disturbances on the Temple Mount so we made security measures ahead of time to ensure the public’s safety.”
Violence at the Temple Mount ensued Wednesday and Friday, with Palestinians throwing rocks at Jews and police.
Salah was apprehended Tuesday while en route to al- Aksa Mosque to attend the protest sponsored by the Islamic Movement planned for Wednesday morning.
Shortly before Wednesday’s planned riot, police prevented over a dozen buses of radical Muslims from reaching the holy site, and later arrested seven stone-throwing Arab youths attempting to harm Jewish visitors’ hours before Rosh Hashana began.
Rosenfeld said Salah was held by police for approximately 24-hours after refusing the terms of a court order that mandated he stay at least 30 kilometers away from the capital for six months and pay NIS 50,000 in bond.
He subsequently accepted the court’s terms and on Wednesday, was released outside the capital.
“They arrested me on fabricated charges,” Salah told an area news agency following his release. “They try to intimidate anyone who speaks out against the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem.”
Rosenfeld said that after Salah was released, he again incited violence, ordering his followers and factions to riot on the Temple Mount Friday.
Violence erupted on two separate occasions following Friday prayers there – the second day of Rosh Hashana – when hundreds of masked Palestinians threw rocks at police, resulting in police fired stun grenades and the arrest 15 rock-throwing assailants.
Rosenfeld said 15 minutes after the hundreds of officers who were called in during the holiday secured the scene, the rioting resumed.
“It was right in the middle of the hag, which is something that normally doesn’t happen,” he said. “Hundreds of officers who were observing the holiday were forced to go to the Temple Mount to stop the rioting.”
Rosenfeld said two officers were lightly injured during the melee before officers were able to disperse the crowd.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch issued a statement supporting Salah’s arrest for attempting to incite violence against Jewish worshipers, and noted the unacceptable escalation of Arabs attempting to block Jews from the Temple Mount.
“I will not allow extremists to disrupt the peace – especially during the holidays,” Aharonovitch said. “Any person, or organization seeking to do so will be arrested by the Israel Police, like the seven individuals who were arrested [Wednesday] morning, that prevented many Muslims from coming to the Temple Mount to disrupt the visits of Jewish worshippers and tourists.”
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who visited the holy site Wednesday, also issued a statement demanding that the Temple Mount be accessible for Jews at all times.
“I intend to continue going there to strengthen Israeli sovereignty,” he said. “It is ours, and that is not subject to any argument or negotiations.”
The tug-of-war between Jews and Arabs over visitation rights to the Temple Mount has a long and contentious history, dating back to when the Wakf Muslim religious trust was given oversight of the holy site following the 1967 War.
The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were located before being destroyed, is considered the holiest place on earth to Jews. Al-Aksa Mosque is considered the third holiest place to Muslims, following mosques located in Mecca and Medina, respectively.
Although the Supreme Court has upheld Jewish prayer rights at the site, the court allows police to prevent any form of worship there if they believe such activities will incite a “disturbance to the public order.”
Numerous Right-wing Israeli politicians have repeatedly demanded Jewish sovereignty of the area, as well as greater access, to little avail.