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Palestinian rioters holed up on Temple Mount

Morning raid by police on holy site finds piles of rocks, firebombs ready for throwing at Jewish visitors

Illustrative photo of Israeli Border Police standing guard in Jerusalem's Old City, on Monday, October 13, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Israeli Border Police standing guard in Jerusalem's Old City, on Monday, October 13, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Dozens of Arab rioters, primarily young men, were on Monday holed up in the Al-Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount.

The site was surrounded by Israeli police forces, who entered the plaza atop the holy site before 7 a.m. after receiving information according to which Palestinian activists had gathered stones and set barbed wire obstacles in preparation for planned attacks against Jewish visitors to the site.

When they entered the site Monday morning, police were met with thrown rocks, firebombs and fireworks, Israel Radio reported. The rioters were pushed back into the mosque, and remain holed up there surrounded by police forces. Police removed multiple obstacles on the site, including stretches of barbed wire.

The site was opened to Jewish visitors at 7:30 a.m.

On Sunday, the Temple Mount was closed to Jewish visitors, and streets were closed off around the Old City to vehicular traffic, as tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers gathered at the Western Wall for holiday prayers.

On Sunday, too, several protesters had holed themselves up in the Al-Aqsa Mosque after being chased by police. Police said flammable material was sprayed at them and a fire was started.

Palestinian sources said dozens of Palestinians were injured in the Sunday clashes.

Five policemen were lightly injured during the Sunday fighting. None was injured on Monday.

The Sunday closure came on the heels of clashes between police and masked rioters at the Temple Mount last Wednesday morning before the start of the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Many Jews have the custom of visiting the Temple Mount on holiday eves.

The Mughrabi Gate, the lone entrance for non-Muslims to enter the compound, has been the site of frequent clashes between Israeli security forces and Muslim worshipers.

Last Wednesday’s clashes came amid an uptick in inter-ethnic violence in Jerusalem over the past several months, with incidents of East Jerusalem rioters hurling stones and Molotov cocktails and using fireworks as a weapon.

There have been several incidents of rock throwing at the Jerusalem light rail in recent days as the train passed through the city’s northern Arab neighborhood of Shuafat.

The Temple Mount, which holds the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, is considered the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest site for Jews as it was the location of the two ancient Jewish temples.

In September, an addition to the Mughrabi Bridge meant to boost the flow of non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount was dismantled after it was deemed “illegal” by Netanyahu. The move, which was praised by Jordan and the Islamic authorities of the site, was seen by some as an attempt to decrease tensions.

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