New clashes broke out on Monday morning between Israeli security forces and Palestinians on the Temple Mount, for a second consecutive day, with further trouble feared in the week ahead as Jews celebrate the Sukkot holiday.
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 barricading themselves inside the al-Aqsa Mosque at the site.
Police said forces entered the Temple Mount at approximately 6:45 Monday morning after repeated efforts at dialogue to end the standoff and clear the site of dangerous materials failed.
According to police, the forces were met with an onslaught of rocks and firebombs thrown by protesters who had barricaded themselves in the al-Aqsa Mosque. Police also said bottles filled with unknown material were hurled at them, as well as firecrackers.
Two Palestinians — one of them a minor — were arrested. One policeman was very lightly injured.
“The police will act using all available resources at its disposal to arrest the rioters and bring them to justice,” according to a police statement.
The photographs of the 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 and Jews prepared to celebrate the festival of Sukkot.
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.
Some religious Jews traditionally ascend to the site, considered the holiest in Judaism, during the week-long Sukkot holiday that began Sunday evening.
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 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.