Violent clashes break out on Temple Mount after Muslim prayers

Worshipers attack police with rocks, fireworks after parade marking year since metal detectors were removed from site; policeman, several rioters said lightly wounded

Clashes broke out Friday at the end of Muslim prayers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem when worshipers hurled projectiles at police at the holy site.

“Stones and fireworks were thrown at police officers,” a police statement said. “Police entered the site and began evacuating the Temple Mount compound.”

Initial reports said a policeman and several rioters were lightly wounded, and several people were arrested.

Palestinian sources said there was a parade on the site known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif to mark the anniversary of Israel removing metal detectors that were temporarily placed at the entrance to the holy site following a terror attack there, Channel 10 news reported.

The sources also said that the IDF blocked all entrances to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the site using batons and chains.

Israel installed security measures, including metal detectors, at the entrances to the site in response to a July 14, 2017, attack in which three Arab Israelis shot dead two police officers near the Lions Gate. They used weapons they had stored at the mosque.

Muslim worshipers participate in midday prayers in a parking lot near the Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, refusing to enter the Temple Mount enclosure to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque inside, July 25, 2017. (Dov Lieber /Times of Israel)

For almost two weeks, Muslim worshipers stayed out of the sacred Jerusalem compound as protests and deadly unrest continued in and around East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Instead, worshipers performed mass prayer protests outside the shrine, some of which devolved into clashes with Israeli security forces.

The security measures, which included scaffolding, railings and cameras in addition to metal detectors, were removed on July 27, 2017. The removal of the railings and scaffolding prompted celebrations by Palestinians, who danced, whistled and honked their horns near the site.

Palestinians perceived the security measures as a move by Israel to assert further control over the site, a charge Israel has repeatedly denied.

Ir Amim, a left-wing Israeli group, on Friday blamed the riots on an increase in the number of Jews visiting the site and on calls to allow Jews to pray there.

Three weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lifted a three-year ban on lawmakers entering the flashpoint holy site.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 8, 2018. (Courtesy)

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the right-wing Jewish Home party was the first minister to visit the site, and called on the prime minister to open the Temple Mount to Jewish prayer.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is revered as the site of the biblical temples. It is also the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina.

Under an arrangement in place since Israel captured Jerusalem’s Old City in the Six Day War in 1967 and extended its sovereignty there, non-Muslims are allowed access to the site but are forbidden to pray there. Under this status quo, Israel is responsible for security at the site while the Jordanian trust — the Waqf — is in charge of administrative duties.

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