US Vice President Joe Biden is on his way to the region, and talks of impending negotiations with the Palestinians continue to gain steam, but the Middle East proves to be as volatile as ever. Police forces on Friday raided the Temple Mount to stop youths hurling stones at passersby at the Western Wall after their weekly prayers. Dozens of police officers and worshippers were injured.
According to an initial report, Arab worshippers hurled stones at police forces at the Old City's Mugrabi Gate. Police forces removed the rioters and took over the Temple Mount courtyard using stun grenades.
Twenty police officers were lightly injured from the stones hurled at them. Five officers received initial medical treatment at the scene and were evacuated to Hadassah Medical Center and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the city. Fifteen other officers who sustained light wounds were treated by emergency service crews at the scene.
Source in the Waqf and medical sources reported that at least 60 Palestinians were injured in the clashes. The Palestinians reported that the worshippers were hurt by tear gas, stun grenades and gas inhalation. According to the Palestinian, the forces entered the al-Aqsa Mosque and used force even in areas free of riots.
Following the clashes, dozens of youths fled into the al-Aqsa mosque. The police did not enter the mosque. A number of adult worshippers remained in the Temple Mount courtyard to try and calm the youths.
Jerusalem District Commander Ilan Franco on Temple Mount (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
After making contact with the Waqf, the police retreated from the compound toward Mugrabi Gate to allow the older worshippers to exit the site.
Police generally restrict entrance to the Temple Mount compound to worshipers over the age of 50 when receiving information on planned riots. This week, however, police decided not to restrict entrance to the site.
Last week riots at the Temple Mount escalated, partly due to the cabinet's decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem in Israel's national heritage site plan.
Some 20 Arab youths from east Jerusalem barricaded themselves in the al-Aqsa mosque last week and refused to exit it. Six police officers and two Border Guard officers were lightly injured in clashes that broke out in the Old City. A number of Arab protesters were also injured, and seven rioters were detained.