Clashes Erupt on Temple Mount on Islamic, Jewish Holy Days (with VIDEO)
Violence comes despite an initial decision by Israeli authorities to ban Jews from accessing their holiest place for the fast of Tisha B’Av
Clashes broke out Sunday atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount – known in the Islamic world as Haram Al-Sharif – after some 80,000 Muslims held morning prayers marking the beginning of the Eid al-Adha festival, which coincides with the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham in Jewish scripture) to sacrifice his son in accordance with God’s will.
The violence erupted despite an initial decision by Israeli authorities to ban Jews from accessing their holiest place for the fast of Tisha B’Av, the day on the Hebrew calendar that both biblical temples are said to have been destroyed more than two thousand years ago.
This year, Tisha B’Av overlaps with Eid al-Adha and, traditionally, Israeli police have closed the compound to non-Muslims on Islamic holidays, although making occasional exceptions when a Jewish festival falls on the same day.
In this respect, Israeli media reported that the Waqf – a Jordanian- and Palestinian-run trust tasked by Israel with custody over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City – urged Muslim worshipers to crowd the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to keep thousands of Jews that had gathered outside from ascending.
Moreover, a huge banner was hung near an entrance gate to the compound featuring a Hamas member as well as former Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. Hamas is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, which numerous Sunni Middle East countries have banned over its alleged promotion of terrorism.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, the head of the Waqf was injured in the clashes, in addition to four Israeli police officers and numerous Muslim and Jewish civilians.
In response to the violence, the Israeli government green-lighted the opening of the complex to Jews later in the day.
Meanwhile, the Jordanian government in a statement condemning what it called ‘blunt’ Israeli violations, and “reject[ing] the absurd practices and irresponsible provocations on the first day of Eid al-Adha… and [the resulting] extreme tensions.”
Hasan, a Palestinian living in Jerusalem, similarly claimed to The Media Line that Israeli forces initiated the conflagration.
“We were praying and happy until the settlers wanted to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said, adding that “there was an order not to allow Jews to enter.
“It was bad behavior by the Israeli police to attack the unarmed worshipers with [riot dispersal methods],” Hasan continued. “These actions diminish the [Eid al-Adha] occasion and prove that the region is under [Israeli] and not Muslim control.”
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also placed full blame on the shoulders of Israeli authorities.
“We hold the occupation responsible for the escalation and warn about [the prospect] of transforming the conflict into a religious one,” he said.
For his part, Wasel Abu-Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization – which dominates the PA and considers itself the official voice of the Palestinian people – contended to The Media Line that the Israeli government’s actions would negatively affect the entire Middle East.
“[Sunday’s events constitute] a serious crime,” he asserted. “The occupation army’s targeting of civilians… is unacceptable and an attempt to drag the region to a religious war.”
Gershon, an Israeli Jew, was barred from entering the compound Sunday morning.
“I am forbidden from going up because the Arabs [and] the Muslims threatened our [local] leadership. I want to tell everyone in the world… the [third] Temple will be rebuilt, and it will again be the house of the God of Israel,” he told The Media Line.
By contrast, Yaakov, who was praying at the Western Wall, believes that Jews should not be allowed to visit the hallowed grounds.
“Our rabbis forbid us from going up the Temple Mount,” he explained to The Media Line. “This is not because it belongs to the Arabs; it belongs to the nation of Israel. While it is the holiest place in the world for the Jewish people, according to our texts we are not [righteous] enough to ascend.”
When contacted by The Media Line, a spokesperson for the Jerusalem District Police declined to comment on Sunday’s developments.
Under an arrangement forged following Israel’s capture of the eastern part of Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Jews are granted only limited access to the Temple Mount and are barred from praying there.
(Mohammad Al-Kassim contributed to this report.)