Israeli police on Sunday discovered pipe bombs during what they said was a preemptive operation at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount, prompting one senior minister to warn that Israel would review measures at the site, which is holy to both Jew and Muslims.
The Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt condemned the Israeli government for the incident. Police said it approached the compound to prevent an attempt to disrupt Jewish visits to the site.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan warned that the discovery of the pipe bombs “forces us to reconsider the arrangements for the Temple Mount.
“It is unacceptable that Muslim rioters who barricaded themselves during the night on the Temple Mount can, at will, turn this holy site into a battlefield, including throwing stones, shooting firecrackers directly at security forces, and even bringing explosive devices into the area of the mount,” he said.
Palestinian witnesses to the early morning disturbances on the Temple Mount said police entered the silver-domed al-Aqsa mosque, but police said they only closed the doors to the mosque to block in rioters throwing stones, fireworks and other objects. Police said that pipe bombs were also found at the entrance to the the mosque.
Intelligence information gathered by security forces discovered a plan for an organized riot on the Temple Mount, with protesters stockpiling rocks and firecrackers as well as a barricade at an entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque, police said.
According to police, the intention of the demonstrators was to upset the movements of Jewish visitors in the compound ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which began Sunday evening and marks the Jewish new year.
“Masked protesters who were inside the mosque threw stones and fireworks at police,” a police statement said. “Suspicious pipes that could be filled with homemade explosives were also found at the entry to the mosque.”
Police later confirmed that the objects were pipe bombs.
Other violent incidents were reported Sunday in the vicinity of the Temple Mount and the Old City, including several instances of rock throwing at Israeli vehicles.
One Israeli youth was lightly wounded. He was chased through the streets of the Old City, had objects thrown at him, and was cursed as he fled.
מטעני הצינור שנתפסו בכניסה למסגד בהר הבית! מחייב את כולנו לחשוב מחדש על ההסדרים בהר. pic.twitter.com/Un5zVgBoAe
— גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) September 13, 2015
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called an “attack” by Israeli authorities on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. “The presidency strongly condemns the attack by the occupier’s military and police against the Al-Aqsa mosque and the aggression against the faithful who were there,” a statement from his office said.
Jordan also called out Israel for the incident, with Amman calling on Israel to stop “provocations” on the Temple mount and warning against attempts to change the “status quo” at the site. “The Jordanian government condemns the assault carried out by special forces of the Israeli occupation army against the Al-Aqsa mosque compound,” Information Minister Mohammed Momani said.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry condemned the use of tear gas and sound bombs as an “unacceptable escalation against Muslim holy places in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Despite the disturbances, Jewish visits to the site continued as usual. Among those who entered the compound was Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the right-wing Jewish Home party, the Haaretz daily reported.
Jerusalem Police Commander Moshe Edri said the success in preventing any disruptions was a credit to the security forces.
“The overnight activity, conducted along with the Shin Bet [security service], proves the accuracy of our intelligence,” he said. “The incident this morning on the Temple Mount was serious and is being looked into by the relevant authorities.”
In a separate incident a Palestinian woman attacked a police officer in the Old City of Jerusalem. The officer was not injured and the woman, in her thirties, was arrested. Another Palestinian was also arrested for throwing stones at police in another location of the Old City.
Clashes between Muslim visitors and Israeli police frequently occur on the Temple Mount, which is considered Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third-holiest.
Visits by Jews are allowed to the complex, but Jewish prayer is prohibited.
AFP contributed to this report.