Israeli actions on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem are tantamount to a “declaration of war,” a senior official from the Islamist Hamas terror organization said Tuesday, as Israeli police and Muslim protesters clashed at the al-Aqsa Mosque for the third consecutive day.
The mosque is situated on the Temple Mount, a flashpoint site holy to both Jews and Muslims. Jewish visitors are permitted onto the Mount, which overlooks the Western Wall, but are not allowed to pray there.
“The Israeli escalation on the Temple Mount is a declaration of war,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, according to Israel’s Walla website. He called on the international community to rein in Israel “before the situation explodes.” Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, is committed to the destruction of Israel.
Police entered the site Tuesday morning for the third time in as many days after Muslim protesters reportedly began throwing stones at the Mughrabi Gate, the only access point to the Temple Mount that can be used by non-Muslims.
The police moved onto the Mount in order to ensure that visits there could go ahead as planned, Israel’s Walla website reported. The police managed to close a door to the mosque that had been jammed open, leaving the protesters inside, and said that visits to the site were able to resume.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said police entered the mosque compound early Tuesday morning to disperse a group of protesters who were throwing rocks and firecrackers. She said the crowd was dispersed and no one was injured or arrested.
Israel’s Army Radio said Wednesday, however, that five police officers had been were lightly hurt in the clashes and two protesters were arrested.
Israel’s actions have been roundly condemned by the Muslim world, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging the United Nations to act against Israel’s “breach” of the sanctity of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday also accused the “Zionist enemy” of trying to “seize” the mosque, while Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that the clashes could had an adverse effect on his country’s relations with Israel.
The round of violence began Sunday morning, with security forces seizing pipe bombs at the site in an operation carried out hours before Jews prepared to celebrate the new year. The Shin Bet security service alerted police to the cache, apparently an effort by Palestinians to stock up on bombs, flares and rocks ahead of an organized riot.