Hamas called for mass “prayer rallies” on Friday at the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem but the Islamic prayers quickly deteriorated into violent riots.
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Approximately 8,000 Palestinians answered the call for a Hamas “prayer rally” but immediately upon finishing their prayers, several hundred began rioting. Israeli police were called in to deal with the violence using non-lethal crowd control measures.
It is believed the violence is focused on an illegal attempt to take over the Gate of Mercy which was illegally opened and is being used for exclusively Muslim prayer.
“The Israeli police will not allow violations of public order in the Temple Mount area, and will work to prevent any riots or calls of a nationalistic background,” the Israel Police said.
Ironically, Azzam Khatib, the director of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem, told the Palestinian WAFA news agency earlier this month that the Jews who visited the Temple Mount were responsible for the violence.
“All signs and data indicate an escalation in the frequency of violations against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings during this year through a series of unprecedented trespasses, which constitute an infringement on the historical and legal status of the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque as an Islamic mosque for Muslims alone under the patronage of King Abdullah II [of Jordan],” said Khatib.
It should be noted that Al Aqsa is the silver-domed mosque at the southern edge of the Temple Mount. No Jews are permitted to enter any of the buildings on the Temple Mount. According to an agreement inked between Jordan and Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has security control over the Temple Mount, while the Islamic Waqf maintains religious control.
The Waqf exercises its authority by forbidding Jews from performing any form of religious worship on the site, including carrying prayer books, prayer shawls, or other religious objects, and even instituted a law whereby Jews were forbidden from moving their lips or bowing in prayer.
Israeli police have reduced their enforcement of the ban against non-Muslim prayer in recent months.