Relative calm was restored to the Temple Mount Monday afternoon after a morning of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian rioters.
The renewed violence broke out Monday morning with Palestinian protesters hurling rocks, firebombs and firecrackers at Israeli police forces. The rioters also barricaded themselves inside the al-Aqsa Mosque on the compound.
Two Palestinians — one of them a minor — were arrested. One policeman was very lightly injured.
Israel Police had imposed an indefinite ban on male Muslim worshipers under the age of 50 from entering the site after a Channel 2 report emerged Sunday night showing images indicating Palestinian protesters were planning for more violence, stockpiling rocks and setting up barricades.
Police Spokeswoman Luba Samri said police had tried to negotiate with the Waqf — the Islamic religious authority that oversees the compound — to call for calm, but talks failed and police entered the compound to seize the “dangerous devices intended to harm visitors to the site and police and endanger their lives.”
Palestinians threw rocks, firebombs and firecrackers from within the mosque at police, Samri said, adding that the firebombs sparked a fire at the entrance to the mosque. Waqf guards didn’t prevent the “desecration of the sanctity of the place,” she said.
Officers later managed to restore calm but sporadic Palestinian stone throwing persisted throughout the morning. By noon the site was quiet, police said.
The director of al-Aqsa Mosque, Omar Kiswani, blamed Israeli police for the violence.
“We asked the police yesterday not to allow any non-Muslim in the compound in these tense days but police didn’t respond positively to our demands,” he said, adding that several people had suffered from tear gas inhalation.
Police said 24 Jews and 450 tourists visited the site Monday morning.
It was the second successive day of violence at the site, with further trouble feared in the week ahead as Jews celebrate the Sukkot holiday.
Some religious Jews traditionally ascend to the site, considered the holiest in Judaism, during the week-long Sukkot holiday that began Sunday evening.
The photographs of the Palestinian preparations, which Channel 2 television said Sunday night were released by Palestinians and obtained by Jerusalem district police, showed lines and heaps of masonry inside the mosque, hours after rioters clashed with police as Muslims marked the end of Eid al-Adha.
According to Channel 2, the stones were prepared in advance of Monday’s return of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, after they were banned from entering Sunday in an effort to maintain the recent calm after days of riots.
The Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site and the third holiest site in Islam, has seen altercations between Israeli police and Palestinians in recent weeks, sparking widespread unrest in and around the capital.
Police had restricted access to some Muslim worshipers following the previous days of violence, but later eased the order due to the ensuing calm. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had instructed police to allow Israeli Muslim worshipers unfettered access on Sunday, while West Bank Palestinian men under 35 remained banned.
But dozens of masked Palestinians hurled rocks and firecrackers at Israeli police at the site on Sunday morning. There were no reports of injuries, and officers used riot dispersal means to break up the riot.
Jerusalem police on Sunday afternoon accused Arab Israeli lawmakers of failing to calm tensions at the site. In a statement on the violence, the police urged the Knesset members to act responsibly and work to restore the calm.
The violence comes after the Israeli security cabinet approved a series of measures last week to combat stone throwing and firebomb hurling on the Temple Mount and across Jerusalem, including mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of the offenses, and an easing of the rules governing police use of live fire in rock-throwing incidents.
The cabinet agreed to back legislation to allow live fire in any case in which lives are endangered; use of .22 Ruger sniper rifles against rock throwers; a minimum four-year prison sentence for rock throwers, including imprisonment and fines for minors aged 14-18; the cancellation of welfare benefits for minors in prison; and an evaluation of fining parents of convicted children aged 12-14.