Saudi Arabia, Qatar condemn Israel over Temple Mount clashes

Arab states call for international intervention to put an end to ‘Israeli violations’ at holy site

Israeli security forces walk past the Dome of the Rock shrine, as they arrive at the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019, after clashes broke out during the overlapping Jewish and Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and Tisha B'Av. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Israeli security forces walk past the Dome of the Rock shrine, as they arrive at the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019, after clashes broke out during the overlapping Jewish and Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and Tisha B'Av. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Sunday joined a chorus of condemnation of Israel for using force against Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after clashes erupted there between the Israel Police and Muslim worshipers earlier in the day.

A Saudi Foreign Ministry source denounced the “Israeli occupation forces’ storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and attacking worshipers on the first day of Eid Al-Adha,” according to the Saudi Press Agency.

“The source expressed the Kingdom’s rejection of the continuation of Israeli violations against the Palestinian people, calling on the international community to protect the Palestinian people from various Israeli aggressive practices that provoke the feelings of Muslims and violate the rights of the Palestinian brethren,” it said.

Qatar similarly called for international intervention to halt “Israeli aggressions” at the site, according to the Ynet news site.

Sunday marked both the start of Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday commemorating the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, and the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the temples that once stood on the Temple Mount and other disasters in Jewish history.

Israeli security forces clash with Muslim worshipers at the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

According to the Israel Police, tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers gathered on the Temple Mount on Sunday morning for Eid al-Adha prayers. The police said that afterward thousands of them assembled near the Mughrabi Gate, where Jews typically enter the Temple Mount, and began throwing rocks and other objects at police.

The police said that Jerusalem District Commander Doron Yedid subsequently ordered forces to clear those rioting on the Temple Mount with “dispersal means.” Footage of the clashes showed police firing tear gas and employing other riot-control weapons against Palestinians at the site.

At least 61 Muslim worshipers were injured in the clashes, according to the Red Crescent. At least four Israeli officers were also lightly to moderately wounded, police said.

An Israeli soldier scuffles with a Palestinian at the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019 (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

The Palestinians had gathered near the Mughrabi Gate in “a peaceful manner” to protest the possibility of Israel allowing Jews to visit the Temple Mount during Eid al-Adha, a Waqf official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

“It’s unacceptable that they be allowed to enter during our holiday,” the official said.

In the early morning, police said they would not allow non-Muslims to enter the Temple Mount “at this stage.” Several hours later, however, they allowed over 1,000 Jews to briefly walk through the site.

Israeli authorities traditionally close the Temple Mount to non-Muslims during Islamic holidays, to keep religious tensions from boiling over, but exceptions have been made when Jewish holidays coincide.

Illustrative: Israelis walk by the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Earlier on Sunday, Jordan condemned Israel over the clashes.

“We completely condemn Israel’s violations of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Jordanian FM Ayman Safadi tweeted. “The occupation authorities’ absurd actions and attempts to change the status quo in occupied Jerusalem will only lead to the conflict being exacerbated and the situation blowing up, threatening international peace and security. We call on the international community to assume its responsibilities and pressure Israel to stop its violations.”

In a statement, Sufyan Qudah, the Jordanian ministry’s spokesman, condemned the “continuation of barefaced Israeli violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the last of which was Israeli forces’ aggression against worshipers and members of the Jerusalem Waqf’s administrative staff in the noble sanctuary.”

“The kingdom completely rejects these absurd practices and irresponsible provocations on the first day of blessed Eid al-Adha and holds the Israeli government responsible for all of their ramifications,” he added.

Qudah, the Jordanian spokesman, also said that the Foreign Ministry had sent a letter of protest to Israel regarding “the continued Israeli violations” through diplomatic channels.

He added that the letter called on Israel to “respect the sanctity of the mosque and the feelings of the worshipers.”

Jordan has managed Al-Aqsa for decades, a role that Israel recognized in its peace treaty with the Hashemite kingdom in 1994.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, also lashed out at Israel: “We hold the Israeli government responsible for storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque and acting aggressively against worshipers, a major provocation against Muslims’ feelings that is inflaming the situation and increasing tension.”

Muslim worshipers perform the Eid al-Adha morning prayers at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Abu Rudeineh also said that Abbas was communicating with “all relevant parties to stop the dangerous Israeli escalation at the expense of our people and its holy sites,” the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Apparent referring to Jewish visits on the Temple Mount, he added that the Palestinians “warn the Israeli government against allowing settlers to carry out these crimes.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s office said on Sunday that 1,729 Jews had entered the Temple Mount earlier in the day, compared with 1,440 last year on Tisha B’Av.

File: Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, speaks at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 5, 2017. (Flash90)

“I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart Jerusalem District Police commander Doron Yedid, who dealt with the events on the Temple Mount responsibly and courageously. He implemented the policies that we decided last week: Allow every Jew and visitor to go to the Temple Mount in accordance with an assessment of the security situation,” Erdan said in a statement.

Asked to respond to the comments by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry and Abbas’s spokesman, the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassim said that the terror group “salutes our Palestinian people that confronted the settler raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the first day of the holiday.”

In a Facebook post, he also said: “We call on everyone able to go to Jerusalem to participate in the operation to confront the settlers.”

Hamas is a terror group that rules the Gaza Strip and has vowed to destroy Israel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a photo of what appeared to be police forces and Muslim women clashing on the Temple Mount, referring to the former as “terrorists.”

“The crime shown in this photo was but one perpetrated on al-AQSA this morning—on our holy day,” he said.

“The same terrorists are hoping to impose #HumiliationoftheCentury on Palestinians. We Muslims have power to end this tyranny, but only if we unite,” he added, making an apparent allusion to the US plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which some, including Abbas, ironically refer to as “the deal of the century.”

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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