Israeli police clashed with protesters at the flashpoint Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem early Sunday morning and broke up an attempt to disrupt Jewish visits to the site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, police said.
Palestinian witnesses said police entered the mosque, but police only said they closed the doors to the mosque to lock in rioters throwing stones, fireworks and other objects.
Intelligence information gathered by security forces discovered a plan for an organized riot on the Temple Mount, with protesters stockpiling rocks and firecrackers as well as a barricade at an entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque, police said.
According to police, the intention of the demonstrators was to upset the movements of Jewish visitors in the compound ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which begins Sunday evening and marks the Jewish new year.
“Masked protesters who were inside the mosque threw stones and fireworks at police,” a police statement said. “Suspicious pipes that could be filled with homemade explosives were also found at the entry to the mosque.”
Police later confirmed that the objects were pipe bombs.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the discovery of pipe bombs at the al-Aqsa mosque “forces us to reconsider the arrangements for the Temple Mount.”
מטעני הצינור שנתפסו בכניסה למסגד בהר הבית! מחייב את כולנו לחשוב מחדש על ההסדרים בהר. pic.twitter.com/Un5zVgBoAe
— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) September 13, 2015
Erdan went on to congratulate the Jerusalem Police for enabling Jewish visits to the site “despite the Muslim rioters who turned the site into a war zone.”
Despite the disturbances, Jewish visits to the site continued as usual. Among those who entered the compound was Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the right-wing Jewish Home party, the Haaretz daily reported.
Jerusalem Police Commander Moshe Edri said the success in preventing any disruptions was a credit to the security forces.
“The overnight activity, conducted along with the Shin Bet [security service], proves the accuracy of our intelligence,” he said. “The incident this morning on the Temple Mount was serious and is being looked into by the relevant authorities.”
Clashes between Muslim visitors and Israeli police frequently occur on the Temple Mount, which is considered Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third-holiest.
Visits by Jews are allowed to the complex, but Jewish prayer is prohibited.
AFP contributed to this report.