Dozens of masked Palestinian protesters hurled rocks, Molotov cocktails and firecrackers at police officers on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City Sunday morning, before being pushed back into the Al-Aqsa Mosque by security forces who were rushed to the area.
According to police, the protesters had stockpiled homemade explosives, firecrackers and wooden boards inside the mosque, with the intention of attacking thousands of Jewish worshipers gathered below for prayers at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av, a fast and day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples.
“Masked rioters fled into the mosque and started to throw stones and blocks at police from inside Al-Aqsa Mosque. They threw fireworks directly at police,” a police statement said, adding that a number of police were wounded.
Six Palestinians were arrested, an AFP photographer reported.
“In light of the severe confrontation and the escalating actions of the rioters and with the aim of preventing further injury to police…[the] force entered a number of meters inside and closed the doors to the mosque with the rioters inside, restoring order,” the police statement said.
The police said that after their brief foray into the mosque, they withdrew and the area was quiet.
Hundreds of Jews, among them Jewish Home’s Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, ascended the Temple Mount on Sunday morning.
Police had increased their presence in and around the Temple Mount overnight Saturday after a video of a Jewish woman insulting the Prophet Muhammad went viral over the weekend.
A group of Jews visiting the Temple Mount Thursday were being escorted out of the site into the alleys of the Old City when they were heckled by the Murabitun, self-proclaimed guardians of site — holy to both Jews and Muslims — who are funded by the Islamic Movement.
A woman from the Jewish group decided to respond, looking into the camera of a person assumed to be a member of the organization, and saying in Hebrew: “Muhammad is a pig.”
The statement enraged the Muslim women in the organization, who then shouted insults and threats of violence at the Jewish woman. Border Police officers escorting the Jewish group had to place themselves between the two groups to prevent violence.
Under the terms of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, the Temple Mount remains under Jordanian custodianship through the Waqf authorities, who maintain administrative charge of the holy site. Jewish visitors are allowed on the Temple Mount but are forbidden to pray there.
AFP contributed to this report.