Violent clashes erupt between police, Palestinians in al-Aqsa

Palestinians barricaded in al-Aqsa fired fireworks and threw stones at Israeli forces who entered the mosque to remove them.

 A Palestinian man prays as Israeli police gather during clashes at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount. May 7, 2021. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A Palestinian man prays as Israeli police gather during clashes at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount. May 7, 2021.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

Palestinians and police clashed in al-Aqsa as dozens of Palestinians barricaded themselves in the mosque ahead of the eve of Passover.

Israeli police entered the compound and tried to evacuate worshippers, using stun grenades and firing rubber bullets, Waqf staff said. Worshippers threw objects at police, witnesses said.

Police entered al-Aqsa, firing stun grenades and working to remove the people barricaded inside. Palestinians in the mosque fired fireworks and threw stones at the Israeli forces. Dozens of Palestinians were reportedly injured or arrested in the clashes, with Palestinian media claiming that medics were prevented from reaching the site.

The police stressed that dozens of young adults armed with sticks, stones and fireworks, barricaded themselves in the mosque earlier in the evening in order to start a violent disturbance. The police added that they tried for hours to convince the young adults to exit the mosque peacefully, but were forced to forcefully enter the building after a continued refusal. One police officer was injured in the clashes.

Footage from the scene published by Palestinian media showed police officers hitting Palestinians in the building with chairs and batons and arresting many of them.

Clashes at al-Aqsa mosque, April 5, 2023 (Credit: Israel Police)

On Wednesday morning, after the dawn prayers at the mosque, scuffles broke out at the complex and in additional locations throughout the Old City.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhala warned of further clashes early Wednesday morning, saying "What is happening in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque constitutes a serious threat to our sanctities, and the Palestinian people must be present with all its components for the inevitable confrontation in the coming days."

Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for Hamas, called the clashes a "religious war against al-Aqsa Mosque," saying "Our Palestinian people will not allow the occupation's plans to be implemented in al-Aqsa Mosque, and we call on our people to inflict upon the occupation the price of this crime."

The head of Hamas's political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, warned that the clashes are "an unprecedented crime," calling on Palestinians to head to Jerusalem to clash with Israeli forces.

The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the clashes saying "We condemn in the strongest terms the occupation police's storming of the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque and assaulting it and those present in it, and Israel bears responsibility for the dangerous consequences of this escalation."

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry also condemned the clashes in al-Aqsa, saying "We consider that such hateful and reprehensible scenes, and the repeated Israeli violations of the sanctity of the holy places, fuel the feelings of wrath and anger among all the Palestinian people, the Islamic peoples and people of living conscience worldwide."

"Egypt holds Israel, the occupying power, responsible for this dangerous escalation, which would undermine the calming efforts that Egypt is engaging in with its regional and international partners."

Since the beginning of Ramadan, police have repeatedly removed Palestinians who tried to remain overnight at the mosque, citing an agreement they say they reached with the Waqf to only allow overnight stays at mosques outside the complex. Police have said that Palestinians who tried to stay overnight in the past week and a half were planning to try and attack Jewish visitors to the site during the morning visiting hours.

After the violence on the Temple Mount, clashes broke out in additional locations throughout Jerusalem, including the Old City.

Police arrest Temple Mount activists trying to prepare Paschal sacrifice

In recent days, Temple Mount activists have intensified their attempts to prepare to carry out the Paschal sacrifice on Wednesday. The activists make similar attempts every year and are prevented from bringing the sacrificial lambs to the Temple Mount by police every year, with police even detaining some activists days ahead of Passover to prevent such attempts.

The head of the Returning to the Mount movement, Rafael Morris, was detained on Monday on suspicion that he was going to try and sacrifice the Paschal sacrifice on the Temple Mount. As it does every year, the Returning to the Mount movement announced last week that it was offering rewards of tens of thousands of shekels for anyone who attempts or succeeds to sacrifice a Paschal lamb on the Temple Mount.

Two members of the movement were arrested on Tuesday as well when they were caught with a lamb near the Lion's Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Temple Mount will be open to Jewish visitors from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Hamas warns against Paschal sacrifice attempts

Palestinian terrorist groups have threatened, as they do every Passover, to respond if the Paschal sacrifice is carried out.

The Hamas terrorist movement warned that it would "not stand idly by" if the sacrifice is done, stressing that Israel "bears full responsibility for the repercussions" of such an act.

"We warn the occupation against committing foolish actions that affect al-Aqsa Mosque, and we call on our struggling Palestinian people to mobilize, raise the level of readiness, tighten the journey, intensify the bond and retreat in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and repel the occupation’s aggression and thwart the plans of its terrorist settlers," said the Hamas movement.

"I back the chief of Israel Police, the commander of the Jerusalem District, the police officers, the soldiers and the entire defense system for their determined work last night at Temple Mount to prevent riots and terrorism," said National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. "I give my full support to these actions that were intended to keep human life safe and wish a full recovery to officers who were injured. It's very severe that stones, metals and fireworks are taken into a mosque with the intention of harming and murdering police officers and harming the citizens of Israel."