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President, ministers condemn Arab rioting on Temple Mount during Tisha B’Av

ShowImage.ashx(Photo: ISRAEL POLICE)

President Reuven Rivlin condemned the dozens of masked Muslim youths who took up arms and set up barricades on the Temple Mount on Sunday morning, attacking police and Jewish visitors with rocks and firebombs during the Tisha Be’av fast day.

The rioting took place as tens of thousands of Jews made a pilgrimage to the Western Wall to mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples that once sat atop the contested holy site.

“The acts of violence and terrorism committed – especially today – against worshipers at holy sites must be condemned unequivocally,” Rivlin said.

“I express my support for the security forces and for their determination to prevent any harm or interference to the prayers at the Western Wall, the remnant of our Temple. Such acts of hatred cannot be tolerated, and we will not allow any disturbances to prevent Jews from praying at this holy site.”

According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, officers entered the compound shortly after 7:30 a.m. after receiving intelligence that a large group of masked Muslim youths had barricaded themselves overnight at al-Aksa Mosque to attack Jewish visitors on Sunday morning.

“The police were attacked immediately upon entering the Temple Mount compound by Palestinians armed with rocks, firebombs, fireworks, and metal pipes,” said Rosenfeld, adding that four officers were lightly wounded during the confrontation.

“Using non-lethal means, officers pushed the assailants into al-Aksa Mosque – without entering it themselves – to secure the area, and ensure visiting hours could take place without further incident.”

Some 850 visitors were able to tour the area amid heightened security until 11:30 a.m.
ShowImage.ashx(Photo: ISRAEL POLICE)

The Joint List faction issued a statement claiming that Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who visited the Temple Mount on Sunday, violated the status quo.

“Ariel’s provocative entrance brought an incursion of Israeli security forces to al-Aksa Mosque at night and in the morning and caused a violent confrontation,” a Joint List spokesman said.

“Police forbade hundreds of believers from exercising their freedom of worship and barred their entry to al-Aksa Mosque through use of violence and physical force.”

Joint List MKs Masud Gnaim, Abdel-Hakim Haj Yahya and Taleb Abu Arar visited the Temple Mount and described the atmosphere there as “warlike,” blaming the visit by “Ariel and extremist warmongering settlers who are trying to change the status quo in every way.”

Despite the Arab MKs’ allegations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that the status quo on the Temple Mount – allowing unlimited Muslim visitation, while severely restricting Jewish visitation and prayer rights – will not be altered.

Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad al-Momani condemned what he described as the “storming” of al-Aksa Mosque by “Jewish settlers,” headed by Ariel, and describing the Jewish presence as “harming the sanctity of al-Aksa.”

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Momani called on Israel to “take responsibility” and prevent any such instances from occurring in future.

While no arrests were made on the Temple Mount, Rosenfeld said three Palestinian youths were arrested in other parts of the Old City for throwing rocks at officers.

Hours later, during rioting in the capital’s northeastern neighborhood of Isawiya, three more officers were lightly wounded by rocks and fire-bombs hurled at them by masked youths, Rosenfeld said. The officers were treated at the scene by Magen David Adom paramedics, and the rioters were dispersed with stun grenades. No arrests were made.

Rosenfeld commended the police response to Sunday’s unrest.

“The police force acted with skill and professionalism, showing determination and courage under a shower of rocks, fireworks and iron bars,” he said.

However, deeming the situation on the Temple Mount unacceptable, Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev blamed the violence on “police incompetence in dealing with the rioters.”

Regev called on Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to instruct the police to ensure that Jews can enter the site on Tisha Be’av, and all other days, unencumbered by Arab threats and violence.

“The Temple Mount is a holy place for Jews and Muslims,” Regev said.

“The government must make sure that Jews can go on the Temple Mount throughout the entire year, certainly on Tisha Be’av.”

Moreover, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman called on Netanyahu to personally instruct police and security forces to stop the rioting on the Temple Mount and allow Jews to observe Tisha Be’av appropriately.

“We cannot allow in sovereign Israel for Jews not to be able to mark such an important day for us,” Liberman said.


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