Clashes broke out at the Temple Mount compound on Sunday morning as Muslim rioted against Jews touring the area in commemoration of Tisha B’av, the Hebrew date on which both temples were destroyed, according to Jewish tradition. Earlier, thousands of Jewish mourners gathered throughout the night at the adjacent Western Wall plaza to cite lamentations.
Tisha B’av is a day of mourning on which observant Jews do not eat, drink, bathe, or wear leather clothing. The day, however, has also become politically sensitive. Many Israeli Arabs and Palestinians oppose the influx of Jews to the Old City in commemoration of the day, and clashes frequently erupt with Jewish worshipers and police forces.
In anticipation of these riots, the IDF and Border Police increased their presence throughout the Old City on Saturday night and Sunday. They were also deployed near other popular prayer sites, such as Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Security has been especially tight at Rachel’s Tomb recently ever since a pipe bomb was discovered and disarmed nearby on August 7.
Over 400 Jews entered the Temple Mount compound during the standard visitation hours, but some 40 others were barred from entering the site after Muslim rioters clashed with police forces and attempted to attack the visitors. Palestinian sources reported that 15 people were wounded in the clashes, and the police said they had detained a man for impeding policemen in duty.
A total of 19 Jews were removed from the site by police forces, and two more were arrested, for visibly mourning during the visit—crying, tearing their shirts, or reciting Jewish verses. Such behaviors are considered violations of visitation rules, which prohibit Jewish prayer at the contested holy site.
“The police will act in accordance with the status quo and will take decisive action against anyone attempting to disrupt the order,” said a statement by the Jerusalem District Police following the arrests.
Palestinian media and social media closely monitored the Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, presenting them as “invasions by settlers” and as “Israeli escalations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” They also reported that some Muslims were denied entry to the holy site, including Sheikh Hussam Abu Leil, the deputy of Raed Salah, leader of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.
The Hamas terror organization warned on Twitter that “these crimes could blow up the whole situation if continued. We call on the masses to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque and call on the international community to intervene to stop the aggression by the occupation and the settlers.”
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism though Jewish access to the site is severely restricted. The site is also considered to be the third holiest to Muslims, who refer to it as Haram al-Sharif or as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. According to Israel’s peace agreement with Jordan, the latter has a “special role” in administering the holy sites in Jerusalem. Jordan vocally opposes many Israeli actions in the Old City of Jerusalem, frequently decrying them as violations of the status quo.