11 arrested in riots following J'lem works
Police arrest rioting youths protesting Israeli works at Mugrabi Gate leading to Temple Mount, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threaten attacks if works continue. Israeli archeologists say works nowhere near mosques, city officials divided over legality of work permit
Palestinian organizations threatened on Tuesday to respond with attacks inside Israel if its Antiquities Authority continues works to reinforce the Mugrabi Gate, which leads to the Temple Mount and is in danger of collapsing.
Several Arab youths hurled rocks at security forces Tuesday afternoon in protest at the works.
At the Shoafat refugee camp in northern Jerusalem several dozen youths hurled rocks at police forces, who dispersed the developing riot. Two youths who threw rocks at policemen near the old central bus station in East Jerusalem were also detained for questioning. In all 11 youths have been arrested.
Reinforcement works at the Mugrabi hill on Tuesday (Photo: Yoav Galai)
Ramadan Adasi, a senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades told Ynet earlier on Tuesday that his organization would respond with full force and will carry out attacks should the works continue. The Islamic Jihad organization said two Qassam rockets it fired earlier this morning were in response to the works.
It is now apparent that just last week Jerusalem Comptroller Shulamit Rubin deemed the permit issued for the works at the Mugrabi site illegal due to a failure of excavation directors to submit a more detailed plan.
The Ir Amim (City of Peoples) organization sent an urgent letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Monday, saying that the illegality of the building permit for the Mugrabi Gate is well knows to municipal bodies.
However Yehoshua Pollak, chairman of Jerusalem's Planning and Construction Committee, said on Tuesday. "We received the request and the authorization was issued with the approval of the city's chief engineer, the minister of internal affairs, the minister of defense, the police commissioner and the director general of the ministry of defense."
Yuval Baruch, a Jerusalem district archeologist, said that the reinforcement works at the Mugrabi Gate are nowhere near the Temple Mount.
MK Ibrahim Sarsur (United Arab List -Ta'al), second from right, surveys the works on Tuesday (Photo: Yoav Galai)
The Antiquities Authority intends to insert support columns for the Mugrabi Gate after the original pathway collapsed during a snow storm in 2004 and the temporary bridge constructed at the site was deemed dangerous.
The Mugrabi Gate is used by Jews and tourists to reach the Temple Mount. It is also where police prepare to break into the Mount on Fridays when riots develop at the site.
Meir Ben-Dov, an archeologist and excavation director near the Temple Mount for 39 years now, said the decision to take down the collapsing Mugrabi Gate and build two bridges in its stead may lead to bloodshed.
"Things were pretty quiet here until now, why this combustion now? Why does it need to come to religious battles?" he said.
J'lem Police Chief Franco briefing reporters at the site (Photo: Yoav Galai)
Jerusalem Lobby chairman MK Collette Avital (Labor) called on the government to call off the reinforcement works. "We must prevent the unnecessary tensions in Jerusalem," said Avital.
Meretz chairman MK Yossi Beilin called the works "irresponsible", saying that might have "devastating consequences."
"Everyone who remembers the consequences of Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount and the opening of the Western Wall is taking on too great a responsibility for human life and is playing a dangerous game into the hands of extremists on the Palestinian side," added Beilin.
Ali Waked, Amnon Maranda and Meital Zur contributed to this article