Jerusalem teens indicted for firebombing police on Temple Mount

Jerusalem teens indicted for firebombing police on Temple Mount

Suspects charged with throwing Molotov cocktail, shooting fireworks at cops earlier this month amid soaring tensions over sacred site

A fire rages in a police post on Jerusalem's Temple Mount after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at it on March 12, 2019. (Ir Amim)
A fire rages in a police post on Jerusalem's Temple Mount after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at it on March 12, 2019. (Ir Amim)

Prosecutors on Sunday indicted two Jerusalem teenagers for firebombing a police post on the Temple Mount holy site in the capital’s Old City earlier this month.

The suspects — a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old — were charged with four counts of terrorist activity: using a weapon for terrorist purposes, terrorist arson, aggravated terrorist assault and aggravated attempted assault on a police officer.

The names of the teenagers and any identifying details have been barred from publication as they are minors.

On March 12, a firebomb was thrown at officers standing guard on the Temple Mount, known by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, leading to several arrests and low-level clashes on the platform.

Following the attack, police ordered the holy site closed until the following day, amid already high tensions at the site.

According to prosecutors, the teenagers had decided on March 5 that they would carry out an attack on the Israeli security forces guarding the Temple Mount “from a nationalistic-ideological motivation.”

On March 12, one of the two teenagers approached the police post on the Temple Mount and threw the Molotov cocktail from approximately a meter away, setting fire to the reception desk, prosecutors said. One officer suffered smoke inhalation and sustained light wounds.

The suspect ran away from the officers, who began chasing him, and signaled to his friend with a thumbs up to set off fireworks at the police officers.

“His friend lit the fireworks and fired them at the officers from a distance of 15 to 20 meters,” according to prosecutors.

The two teenagers were arrested shortly after the attack, along with eight other people, as officers scuffled with worshipers.

Prosecutors are requesting they remain in custody through the trial.

In recent weeks, the Temple Mount has seen increased friction between Muslim worshipers and police as the former have repeatedly threatened to enter an area of the Temple Mount near the Gate of Mercy, which was closed by court order in 2003 over allegations that the group overseeing the site was tied to the Hamas terror group.

The longstanding closure of the area near the Gate of Mercy on the compound has ignited tensions between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police in recent weeks. Worshipers have forced the area open and entered on several occasions.

High-level Israeli and Jordanian officials have been holding talks in the hope of defusing the situation. Earlier this month, Israeli officials traveled to Jordan for meetings, and Jordanian officials have also visited Jerusalem according to  Israeli reports.

Palestinian Muslim worshipers attend Friday noon prayers at a disputed area near the Golden Gate in Temple Mound compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, on March 1, 2019. (AhmadGharbli/AFP)

The talks are ongoing and the sides have yet to come to an agreement, according to the Haaretz daily.

Jordan has offered that the site be closed for long-term renovations. While the Israelis agree, they insist it must first be closed without renovations taking place, as a statement of Israeli authority. This disagreement has reportedly stood in the way of a deal.

The area inside the Gate of Mercy was sealed off by Israeli authorities in 2003, and it has been kept closed to stop illegal construction work there by the Islamic Waqf, the organization that administer the Temple Mount. The actual Gate of Mercy, which is a fortified gateway in the retaining wall surrounding the Temple Mount, has been bricked up for nearly 500 years.

Israeli officials believe the work carried out by the Waqf, which refused to allow any Israeli observers into the site, led to the destruction of antiquities from periods of Jewish presence in the area.

Palestinian demonstrators break open the locked entrance to the Gate of Mercy compound outside the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, February 18, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Last month, the Waqf reopened the site and Palestinian worshipers began to use it as a mosque, despite Israeli attempts to keep the area sealed.

The Waqf has repeatedly challenged the closure, convening and staging prayer-protests in the area, which often erupted into clashes with police.

Adam Rasgon and agencies contributed to this report.

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