Clashes between Israeli police and rioters continued on the morning of the Jewish holiday of Sukkoth, with Arabs throwing firebombs and stones at police, and barricading themselves inside the mosque. Peace was restored at the site by the afternoon but the firebombs set off a fire in the entrance to the al-Aqsa Mosque.
After lifting restrictions for Muslim holidays last week, Israeli authorities placed a ban on male Muslim worshipers under the age of 50 from entering the site. Women of all ages were permitted unrestricted access. A Channel 2 report on Sunday night showed Arabs stockpiling rocks and setting up barricades in preparation for conflicts.
Police Spokeswoman Luba Samri said police opened negotiations with the Waqf Islamic religious authority that oversees the site, but talks failed and police entered the compound to seize the “dangerous devices intended to harm visitors to the site and police and endanger their lives.”
The director of al-Aqsa Mosque, Omar Kiswani, spoke to Times of Israel, blaming Israeli police for the violence.
“We asked the police yesterday not to allow any non-Muslim in the compound in these tense days but police didn’t respond positively to our demands.”
Non-Muslims were prohibited on Sunday, but on Monday, Police said 24 Jews and 450 tourists visited the site. Non-Muslim prayer is strictly prohibited at all times. Monday was the Jewish Holday of Suukoth, a festival when Jews make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and many Jews ascend the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and the focus of all Jewish prayer.
A police statement said, “The intention of the rioters was to disrupt order, clash with police, and upset the routine visits and prayers on the Mount. After all attempts to restore quiet and security on Temple Mount through dialogue and cooperation were exhausted, attempts which included conversations with the waqf’s management in the hope that it would restore order and denounce violence, no other option was left but to initiate a seizure of the dangerous weapons that were intended to harm visitors and police and to endanger their lives,” the statement read.
Violence broke out on the Temple Mount two weeks ago, around the Jewish New Year. Before that, Israeli authorities outlawed the Morabiton and Morabitot, Muslim groups paid to harass Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been urging citizens to violence. Sunday morning, members of the Joint Arab List to the Knesset arrived at the Tmeple Mount and voiced the same message.
Last week, in response to violence spreading out from Jerusalem, the Israeli security cabinet approved a series of measures against stone throwing and firebombs, including mandatory minimum sentences, and an easing of the rules of engagement for police, which included use of small caliber sniper rifles in life-threatening incidents.