For the third straight day on Tuesday, Israeli Police and Palestinians clashed on the Temple Mount, drawing sharp criticism from the UN, the US and the Muslim world.
As police escorted Jews going up to the site on the second day of the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hasana, they were met by dozens of Palestinians who attacked them with rocks, iron bars and firecrackers. A firebomb was also thrown at police, setting wooden beams on fire. The rioters attempted to barricade themselves inside the al Aqsa Mosque but police forced their way in, using tear gas and stun grenades.
Five policemen were lightly injured and an unspecified number of Palestinians were arrested. The director of the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency unit, Amin Abu Ghazaleh, reported that 26 Arabs were injured.
United States State Department spokesman John Kirby condemned the clashes on Monday, stating, “The United States is deeply concerned by the increase in violence and escalating tensions surrounding the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. We strongly condemn all acts of violence.”
“It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric and preserve unchanged the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” he added. The “historical status quo” Kirby is referring to is a ban on Jews on the Temple Mount.
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday evening in a special security meeting that “rioters would not be allowed to prevent Jews from visiting the Mount,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.
Condemnation against Israel has also poured in from across the Middle East. Jordan’s King Abdullah addressed the Temple Mount violence in a press conference in Amman on Monday, AFP reported. “Any more provocation in Jerusalem will affect the relationship between Jordan and Israel,” Abdullah said. “Jordan will not have a choice but to take actions, unfortunately.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “the Israeli escalation on the Temple Mount is a declaration of war,” threatening reprisal attacks against Israel, Walla! reported.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a phone conversation to act against Israel’s “breach” of the sanctity of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, according to the Turkish Hurriyet news website, saying that Israel’s actions were “unacceptable” and a cause for “serious indignation” in the Muslim world.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir condemned Israel for the Temple Mount actions after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. “A discussion was conducted on the Palestinian issue and what is happening at the al-Aqsa Mosque, and how to deal with these aggressive moves by the Zionist enemy in an attempt to seize the mosque, as well as how to intensify the efforts of the Arab and Muslim countries to condemn these Israeli actions and confront them on all tracks, in accordance with the request of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and with unanimous approval of the Arab countries,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.
UN coordinator Nickolay Mladenov spoke during a Security Council meeting Tuesday, urging Israel to maintain the “historic status quo,” which prevents Jews from visiting the Temple Mount. “As the Middle East faces a vicious tide of terror and extremism, such serious provocations have the potential to ignite violence well beyond the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.”