Muslims and Israeli police clashed at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount for a second straight day on Monday, prompting at least three arrests, police said.
“As the police entered the compound masked youths fled inside the mosque and threw stones at the force,” a police statement said. Masked Palestinians also attacked police with metal bars before fleeing into the mosque, Army Radio said.
Police said they entered the hilltop compound to ensure that Muslim youths massing there did not harass Jews or tourists during the morning visiting hours. The site is sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
Security forces on Sunday found pipe bombs on the Temple Mount, 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.
Police said Monday that three protesters were arrested and visits went ahead as planned to the site.
An AFP journalist outside the gate saw a Jewish visitor leaving the compound scuffle with Muslims outside.
Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the compound, but Jews are forbidden from praying there.
After the Sunday raid, which quickly turned violent, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out an “attack” on the mosque and said sites such as al-Aqsa constituted a “red line,” adding that the Palestinians “will not allow attacks against our holy places.”
The Prime Minister’s Office said Israel sought to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount but would not tolerate rioting on the compound.
“Israel will use any means to maintain the status quo and the rule of law on the Temple Mount. It is the country’s duty and right to act against rioters in order to enable freedom of religious practice in this holy place. We shall therefore act determinedly against those who throw rocks, Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs or those who use any other means,” said the statement.