Israeli police entered the Temple Mount complex on Sunday morning as hundreds of Palestinians allegedly sought to block Jewish visitors from visiting the holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City, just two days after significant clashes there.
Also Sunday morning, Palestinian rock-throwers attacked several Egged buses just outside the Old City en route to the Western Wall, smashing windows and leaving several passengers lightly wounded, including a 13-year-old girl. Ten buses were reportedly attacked, over a two-hour period.
According to police, hundreds of Palestinians youths — many of them masked — stockpiled rocks in the Al-Aqsa compound which they planned to use along with iron bars and makeshift barricades to riot and try to prevent non-Muslims from touring the compound.
According to the Red Crescent, 17 Palestinians were treated for injuries amid clashes with police at the site Sunday morning, five of whom were taken to hospital. Police said that nine Palestinians were arrested.
Police said officers worked to distance the Palestinians to allow the visits to go ahead, and Jewish visitors were later seen touring the site.
“Alongside the visits, freedom of worship will continue to be fully preserved for the worshipers on the Temple Mount,” a police statement said. “The Israel Police will continue to act against lawbreakers and rioters.”
Also Sunday morning, rocks were hurled by Palestinians at Israeli buses just outside the Old City that were heading to the Western Wall.
Five people are lightly hurt after Palestinians hurl stones at a bus near Jerusalem's Old City, MDA says. Police say two suspects have been arrested. pic.twitter.com/M7N6EZIGvH
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) April 17, 2022
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said seven people were hurt in the incidents and taken to the city’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center with light injuries. Police said two suspects were arrested and that officers were searching the area for others.
The driver of one of the buses said that 15-20 Palestinian youths were lying in wait for the bus as it neared the Old City and lobbed a heavy volley of rocks at it, shattering windows and the windshield.
“I told the passengers to lie on the floor,” the driver recounted.
Nahum Appleboim, a passenger on one of the buses targeted early in the morning, said “there was a boom, boom, boom” and “a crazy hail of rocks” hit the bus as it neared Lions’ Gate. “I was hit a terrible blow in the shoulder by a rock that came through the window, and I went flying to the floor. There was glass everywhere,” he told Channel 12.
“The driver was incredible,” Appleboim added, speaking after treatment for his injuries. “He kept going… It wasn’t simple… It was terrifying… I was just praying to get out of there.”
Police later arrested six Palestinians suspected of throwing rocks at police officers and other passersby in the Old City.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, whose ministry oversees police, condemned the clashes and rock-throwing, saying the force took a “severe” view of the violence.
“The police will act with a firm hand against whoever dares to use terror against Israeli citizens,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s important to us to continue to allow freedom of worship, but we won’t compromise when violence and terror happens.”
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) April 17, 2022
Many Jews head to the Western Wall and the Old City during the week of Passover, which began Friday night, for the traditional pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Non-Muslims can only visit the Temple Mount during certain hours and are barred from praying at the site, which is the holiest in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam.
Passover this year intersects with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which normally sees increased tensions around the Old City, which houses the flashpoint Temple Mount. Sunday is also Easter, with Christian pilgrims expected in the Old City.
The confluence of the holidays this year has been seen for months as potential kindling for an eruption of violence.
Overnight, a group of Palestinians at the Temple Mount hung up a banner of the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.
“Hamas calls for a general mobilization and the repulsion of the herd of settlers threatening to invade al-Aqsa,” the banner said, referring to the mosque on the Temple Mount.
On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians were detained in clashes with police at the Temple Mount. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that 158 were injured — a majority of them likely due to tear gas inhalation. Footage showed chaos at the site, with showers of rocks and fireworks shot toward heavily armed police.
Determined to clear the mosque of the stockpiled stones, police decided to breach the building in what resulted in dozens of arrests and scenes identical to those that unfolded nearly a year ago. After six hours, police said they managed to rid the compound of rioters. Calm was restored and afternoon prayers managed to proceed without incident, with some 50,000 Muslim worshipers taking part.
The site is the emotional epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and tensions there can easily snowball into wider conflagrations. Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups have repeatedly invoked the flashpoint holy site as a red line. Police actions to quell riots there last year helped trigger the 11-day war in Gaza in May.
In addition to the holiday friction, Israeli troops have been carrying out extensive raids in the West Bank following the deadliest outbreak of terror in Israel in years.