Palestinian officials blamed Israel for clashes between Palestinians and police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount on Monday, which the Hamas terror group dubbed “a massacre.”
The Palestinian Red Crescent said that over 300 Palestinians were wounded during clashes between Palestinians and police near Al-Aqsa Mosque and elsewhere in the Old City Monday morning. According to the Red Crescent, 205 people were hospitalized, and seven were said to be in serious condition. Police said at least 21 officers were wounded.
Israeli police entered the Temple Mount compound on Monday morning. They said they sought to quell a violent Palestinian riot that included stone-throwing. Palestinians had reportedly stored stones and other weapons in the sanctuary, expecting to attack right-wing religious visitors celebrating Jerusalem Day. But police decided to block Jews from entering the Mount.
The flashpoint area, the holiest place for Jews as the site of the biblical temples and site of the third holiest shrine in Islam, has been at the center of repeated clashes this week, and the broader East Jerusalem area has seen violent nights for the past few weeks. Demonstrators have been protesting over tensions surrounding the Mount as well as the pending eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, to be replaced by right-wing Israeli nationalists. The Palestinians live in houses built on land that courts have ruled were owned by Jewish religious associations before the establishment of Israel 1948.
In Ramallah, senior officials condemned the “storming of Al-Aqsa” by Israeli police and vowed that they would consider “all options” in response.
“The Israeli occupation forces’ brutal storming and assault on worshipers in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its courtyards is a new challenge to the international community, especially those efforts being made by the [new] United States administration,” a spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said.
“The Israeli government has flouted every international effort and intervention. The Palestinian leadership and our people will not allow these Israeli plans to stand unchallenged,” the spokesperson said.
Senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh, one of Abbas’s closest advisers, tweeted: “Storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a crime committed by the occupation. The Palestinian leadership is studying all options to respond to this heinous aggression against the holy sites and the citizens.”
The clashes took place on Jerusalem Day, which celebrates Israel’s unification of Jerusalem with the capture of East Jerusalem and the Old City from Jordan in the 1967 war, and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city.
Police entered the Temple Mount compound in the morning after thousands of Palestinians gathered in the compound overnight. According to police, dozens of rioters attacked a police post and started hurling rocks from the Temple Mount toward a road south of the compound, blocking the road but causing no injuries or damage.
That prompted police to enter the Temple Mount area. Officers were attacked and responded with stun grenades, police said.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesperson for the Hamas terror group, deemed the clashes “a real massacre and war crime.”
“We call on our entire nation to take to the streets and clash with the occupation,” Abu Zuhri said, adding that “Israel will pay a heavy price for its forcible takeover of Al-Aqsa.”
Khadr Adnan, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank, also threatened Israel over the clashes.
“The desecration of Al-Aqsa and the wounding of hundreds of those who defend it is a crime that has its price, and we are all confident in the resistance of our people,” Adnan said.
The protests against Israeli policies and actions in Jerusalem have spread across Israel. Arab Israeli leadership has joined the calls to protest what it deemed a “brutal storming and assault on worshipers in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Turkey on Monday condemned Israel as an “apartheid state” that must end “heinous and cruel attacks” against Palestinians.
“To the Islamic world, we say: It’s time to stop Israel’s heinous and cruel attacks!” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s press aide Fahrettin Altun wrote on Twitter.
“To humanity, we say: It’s time to put this apartheid state in its place!” Altun said.
The Arab-Jewish Hadash party, a faction in the Joint List alliance in the Knesset, called for increased protests in the coming hours and days, citing “the occupation’s terror and criminal aggression” against Palestinians at Al-Aqsa.
“We call on the international community to act to stop the criminal insanity that has gripped the Israeli government and its settlers,” said the Arab High Follow-Up Committee, a body that represents Arab Israelis across the political spectrum.
Thousands of Arab Israelis participated in demonstrations Sunday night in Nazareth, Haifa, Shfaram, and other cities across Israel’s northern region.
Protesters blocked main roads and, in Nazareth, set trash cans ablaze in the middle of the street. In Haifa, hundreds of demonstrators marched through the city’s main thoroughfare to the city’s German Colony neighborhood. The participants sang “My Homeland,” an unofficial pan-Arab anthem, chanted slogans and waved Palestinian flags. “From Sheikh Jarrah to Silwan, we want to end settlements,” demonstrators called.
Police dispersed the Haifa demonstration with stun grenades and arrested 15 Arab Israelis for attacking cops.
Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh on Sunday accused the government of deliberately inciting violence. “Violent arrests in Sheikh Jarrah, stun grenades in Haifa and the government approved the flag parade tomorrow at Damascus Gate. This is seriously escalating the situation — which serves the continuation of the occupation and the politicians who feed on it,” Odeh said in a statement.
Violence was expected to escalate throughout the day, as more than 25,000 religious-nationalist Israeli Jews were expected to arrive to participate in a traditional march through the Old City in celebration of Jerusalem Day.
The march, which annually draws tens of thousands of participants, proceeds into the Old City via Damascus Gate and on through the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall. But the Damascus Gate area and Old City have seen days of clashes, including a major eruption of violence on the Temple Mount on Friday night.
Police decided early Monday afternoon that the march could go ahead as planned at 4 p.m. following its usual path, despite the recommendations of security services to alter the route.
Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.