Jerusalem: Temple Mount riots resume
On backdrop of high state of alert in Jerusalem holy site, police attacked with stones, Molotov cocktails. Forces enter Mount in order to catch rioters, using shock grenades; at least 18 people arrested, including Fatah official and Islamic Movement leader. Nine police officers lightly hurt; Palestinians say eight worshippers also injured
Nine police officers were lightly injured Sunday stones and Molotov cocktails hurled at forces stationed at the Temple Mount as part of the high state of alert in the area. A female Australian reporter was lightly injured by stones in the Old City.
Forces patrolling the area also noticed oil poured on the floor, apparently in order to cause the officers to slip and make their activity in the area more difficult.
A police force entered the Temple Mount compound in order to catch the stone throwers, using shock grenades. More than 18 people were arrested on the Mount and in its surroundings, including senior Fatah member Khatem Abdel Kader, who is charge of the Jerusalem portfolio in the Palestinian organization.
Palestinians and members of the Waqf reported that at least eight worshippers were injured, but the police said they were unaware of any injuries.
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Abdel Kader was arrested at the Temple Mount plaza after allegedly rioting, assaulting policemen and calling on worshippers to launch a parade. He was taken in for questioning by the Jerusalem Police's minority unit.
Three masked Arab men were arrested in the afternoon hours after hurling stones at the security forces in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. Police also detained Ali Abu Sheikha, No. 3 in the Islamic Movement's northern branch.
Abu Sheikha was arrested on suspicion of rioting and calling on residents to go out and demonstrate. In mid October he was detained on suspicion of inciting Arabs near the Temple Mount during the riots which began on Yom Kippur Eve.
Another incident was recorded when Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) tried to enter the Temple Mount but was stopped by the police. "This is extremely severe," Tibi said in response. "The police are violating the law. It's not in their authority. The al-Aqsa Mosque is not a closed military zone."
Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen told reporters while visiting the Mount, "I identify many large groups of east Jerusalem Arabs and Israeli Arabs who have arrived here following calls made by the Islamic Movement, whose leaders are here. I call on them to practice restraint and calm and not to incite.
"The Jerusalem Police will act firmly against any rioters on the Temple Mount. The inciters are the same people you know. It's impossible that the Israel Police will have to deal with the Islamic Movement every Sunday, and so we will handle this on the investigative level."
He clarified that the police did not enter the al-Aqsa Mosque and had no plans to do so.
The Jerusalem Police accused elements in the Islamic Movement and Hamas of inflaming the situation after calling on youngsters to riot on the Temple Mount on Saturday.
Police officials clarified that the forces were prepared for the disturbances and exerted efforts to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, allowing worshippers and tourists to enter the site. Several minutes after the Mount opened for prayers, however, rioters began hurling stones, objects, Molotov cocktails, acid and oil at police officers patrolling the area, forcing the police to enter the site.
Mount closed to visitors
Following the violent incidents, the police closed the mount to Muslim worshippers and visitors. The Jewish worshippers' prayers in the Western Wall are continuing as planned, while the reinforced police forces remain in the area to prevent another outbreak of riots.
The area was cleared of worshippers, apart from several dozen young men who remained inside the mosque. The police are trying to hold a dialogue with different representatives, including the Waqf, in order to calm things down.
Tensions high on Temple Mount (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The violence spread to other places in the Old City, and in one alley Arabs hurled stones at passersby and policemen. There were no reports of injuries or damage, and the police began searching for the stone throwers.
The police fear the recurrence of violent incidents on the Mount after Arabs in east Jerusalem and northern Israel were urged Saturday to come protect the al-Aqsa Mosque, while right-wing activists called on Jews to come visit the Temple Mount in masses.
The police decided Saturday evening not to close the Mount to visitors and not to limit the age of Muslim worshippers, but vowed to act firmly against any attempt to cause disturbances or change the status quo on the Mount and in its surroundings.
The Islamic Movement announced that it would make buses available for worshipers who wish to arrive at the mosque Sunday. The movement's spokesman Zahy Nujeidat said the flyer calling Arabs to protect the area was issued "in response to those who try and desecrate al-Aqsa."
According to police, there was a call for the capital's Arab residents to "protect Temple Mount from Jewish conquest," as well as a call on Jews by extreme-right elements to arrive at the compound.
Sharon Roffe-Ofir and Ali Waked contributed to this report