Israeli security forces and riot police were called in to the Temple Mount area Sunday morning as violent protests erupted. Riots erupted near the Mughrabi gate as the site was opening to visitors for the day.
Palestinian and Arab rioters threw stones and Molotov cocktails, beginning around 8 a.m. According to police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld, two police were lightly injured in the attacks.
Police responded to the riots by entering the al-Aqsa mosque area and used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the violent rioters. The Temple Mount was immediately closed after the incident.
Rosenfeld, who spoke to AFP, did not specify whether Jews were the target of the riots. Riots have been used in the past to prevent Jews from ascending to the Temple Mount area, who the Arabs accused of “Judaizing” the area. With the upcoming Passover holiday set to begin, it is possible that the riots are meant to keep Jews away before Passover.
The Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, is under the control of the Muslim Waqf. The Waqf has absolute total discretion as to who is and who is not allowed to enter the holy area. Jewish prayer is illegal.
Sunday’s violent riot is the most recent in a string of violent uprising on the Temple Mount by Palestinian and Arab protestors. On March 16, Housing Minister Uri Ariel was forced to leave the Temple Mount are during a visit when rioters turned violent.
“The reality where there are disturbances on the Temple Mount and these prevent Jews from ascending is unacceptable,” Ariel said. “I went up this morning and I intend to continue to do so in the future, and I demand from the security forces to secure Jewish sovereignty and allow any Jew to go to the Temple Mount freely.”
On March 20, MK Moshe Feiglin was visiting the Temple Mount when he and his group were attacked by Arab youth. As Feiglin entered the Temple Mount area, he was suddenly surrounded by Palestinian who yelled “Allah Akbar” and began to pelt the MK with stones.
In February, Israeli security forces were attacked by stones and firecrackers in two separate incidents. In one case, hundreds of Palestinian and Arab teenagers and young adults stones Israeli police on the Temple Mount.
In response to the increasing demands by Israeli governmental officials and Israeli society, the Knesset has begun to explore Jewish demands to pray on Judaism’s holiest site.