Video footage shared widely on social media showed a fire that broke out during violent clashes on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Monday night, at a point that overlooks the Western Wall, with flames billowing into the sky as Jewish worshipers below celebrated Jerusalem Day.
The incident came as hundreds of Palestinian protesters clashed with security forces in the Temple Mount compound following days of turmoil in the capital.
The Israel Police said that a tree on the Mount caught fire, apparently from flares thrown by protesters at officers during the violence.
As a precaution, police briefly cleared some 9,000 people from the Western Wall plaza, Hebrew media reported.
In one video, thousands of Jewish Israelis can be seen singing and dancing as they face the Western Wall, with the fire visible above them. MK Ayman Odeh, who leads the predominantly Arab Joint List alliance in the Knesset, tweeted the video with the remark “Shocking.”
— Ayman Odeh (@AyOdeh) May 10, 2021
The celebrants were at the Western Wall, which forms one of the supporting walls to the Temple Mount compound, to mark Jerusalem Day, which commemorates Israel’s reunification of the city during the 1967 Six Day War.
Jerusalem Day includes the controversial Flag March, during which thousands of Israelis, mostly youths, parade through the Old City to the Western Wall carrying Israeli flags. This year’s march was rerouted on Monday, to steer clear of the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, and it was later suspended by police when Hamas fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza at the Jerusalem area.
The contested Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, revered as the location of two biblical Temples. It is also the third-holiest site in Islam. The Western Wall is a remnant from the Second Temple.
Recent days have seen police clash with Palestinian protesters at the Temple Mount compound, where tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers have been gathering daily due to the holy month of Ramadan. Tensions peaked Monday, with over 300 injured in clashes with cops at the site and Gaza terror groups firing dozens of rockets at southern Israel and at Jerusalem.
The rocket barrages at Israel continued into the night, and on through Tuesday.