Israeli police entered the Temple Mount complex on Sunday morning as hundreds of Palestinians allegedly sought to block Jewish visitors from visiting the holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City, just two days after significant clashes there.
According to police, hundreds of youths — many of them masked — were stockpiling rocks which they planned to use along with iron bars and makeshift barricades to riot and try to prevent non-Muslims from touring the compound.
According to the Red Crescent, 17 Palestinians were treated for injuries amid clashes with police at the site Sunday morning, five of whom were taken to hospital. Hebrew media reports indicated that at least nine Palestinians were arrested Sunday morning.
Police said officers were working to distance the Palestinians to allow the visits to go ahead.
“Alongside the visits, freedom of worship will continue to be fully preserved for the worshipers on the Temple Mount,” a police statement said. “The Israel Police will continue to act against lawbreakers and rioters.”
Jewish visitors were later seen touring the site.
— חדשות (@kann_news) Apr 17, 2022
The visits come just after the start of the weeklong Passover holiday — when many Jews make the traditional pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Non-Muslims can only visit the Temple Mount during certain hours and are barred from praying at the site, which is the holiest in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam.
Passover this year intersects with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which normally sees increased tensions around the Old City, which houses the flashpoint Temple Mount. Sunday is also Easter, with Christian pilgrims expected in the Old City.
The confluence of the holidays this year has been seen for months as potential kindling for an eruption of violence.
Also Sunday, police said rocks were hurled at buses right outside the Old City, smashing windows and leaving several passengers lightly wounded.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said seven people were hurt in the incident and taken to the city’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center with light injuries. Police said two suspects were arrested and that officers were searching the area for others.
Five people are lightly hurt after Palestinians hurl stones at a bus near Jerusalem’s Old City, MDA says. Police say two suspects have been arrested. pic.twitter.com/M7N6EZIGvH
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) Apr 17, 2022
Overnight, a group of Palestinians at the Temple Mount hung up a banner of the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.
“Hamas calls for a general mobilization and the repulsion of the herd of settlers threatening to invade al-Aqsa,” the banner said, referring to the mosque on the Temple Mount.
On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians were detained in clashes with police at the Temple Mount. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that 158 were injured — a majority of them likely due to tear gas inhalation. Footage showed chaos at the site, with showers of rocks and fireworks shot toward heavily armed police.
Determined to clear the mosque of the stockpiled stones, police decided to breach the building in what resulted in dozens of arrests and scenes identical to those that unfolded nearly a year ago. After six hours, police said they managed to rid the compound of rioters. Calm was restored and afternoon prayers managed to proceed without incident, with some 50,000 Muslim worshipers taking part.
The site is the emotional epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and tensions there can easily snowball into wider conflagrations. Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups have repeatedly invoked the flashpoint holy site as a red line. Police actions to quell riots there last year helped trigger the 11-day war in Gaza in May.
In addition to the holiday friction, Israeli troops have been carrying out extensive raids in the West Bank following the deadliest outbreak of terror in Israel in years.