The Islamist Ra’am party condemned the ascent of hundreds of what it called Jewish “settlers” to the Temple Mount on Sunday morning, during the observance of the Tisha B’Av fast.
“The Al-Aqsa Mosque, in its 144 dunams, is solely the property of Muslims, and no one else has any right to it,” the Islamist party said, in a joint statement with its parent organization, the Islamic Movement.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam. But the Temple Mount is also Judaism’s holiest site, as the two biblical Temples were said to be built on the hilltop. A fragile status quo prevails at the sanctuary, with Jewish prayer officially forbidden.
Early on Sunday morning, Israeli police clashed with Palestinian worshipers on the Mount. According to Palestinian reports, Israeli police fired tear gas and stun grenades, while police said some Palestinians threw stones.
There were no reports of serious injuries following the clashes, and a few Palestinians were said to have been detained. Police did not respond to a request for comment.
A few hours later, over 1,600 Jewish Israelis ascended the hilltop to observe the holiday as per annual tradition. The pilgrims — including Yamina MK Amichai Chikli — sang Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva, while standing in front of the iconic Dome of the Rock mosque.
In videos on social media, police could be seen seeking to clear out Palestinians from the area, possibly in an attempt to keep them away from the Israeli visitors. In one video, officers dragged a woman in a black veil as she fought against them.
עכשיו יצאתי מאיזור העיר העתיקה ביליתי שם לילה שלם כדי להבין מה באמת יקרה וקורה עכשיו בבוקר
מראות קשים פינוי המתפללים באלימות
ובסרטון הזה איך כמה ״גברים״עם כח של כובש נגד נשים וילדים
קחו רגע לצפייה: באיזה צד אתם ? pic.twitter.com/9xgyfzS9DT
— Yanal Jbareen | ينال جبارين | ינאל ג׳בארין???????? (@JbareenYanal) July 18, 2021
The government, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, backed the raid and the subsequent pilgrimage. Bennett thanked the police for “managing the events on the Temple Mount with responsibility and consideration, while maintaining freedom of worship for Jews on the Mount” — a statement that raised questions as to whether the government was seeking a change in policy at the site.
Ra’am, led by Mansour Abbas, is a part of Israel’s current ruling coalition government. But for their conservative religious base, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a treasured and revered symbol.
The party said authorities “allowed officials and Knesset members to storm Al-Aqsa, perform prayers, perform religious rituals, and declaimed the Israeli national anthem Hatikva in the courtyards of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” listing a number of actions its members consider to be provocations.
Ra’am said such acts could lead to renewed escalation between Israelis and Palestinians. The incident also comes at a particularly sensitive time, with Muslim Palestinians set to observe Eid al-Adha — one of the holiest days in the Islamic calendar — on Tuesday.
“The events that may result from it could inflame the situation in Jerusalem and the entire region, leading to a catastrophic religious war,” Ra’am said.
Sunday’s incident sparked protests by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Several of Israel’s neighbors also issued condemnations, including Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan, whose Islamic Waqf administers the site.
Under the 1994 peace treaty, Israel recognized Jordan as the custodian of the Temple Mount and other Muslim holy sites in the Old City, which was among the Jordanian-annexed areas that Israeli forces captured in the 1967 Six Day War.
According to the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, Amman sent Israel a formal letter of protest following the incident, asserting its control over the site.
“The Israeli actions against the mosque are unacceptable and condemnable. They represent a violation of the historical and legal status quo, international law, and Israel’s obligations as an occupying power in East Jerusalem,” Jordanian foreign ministry spokesperson Daifullah Fayez said in a statement.