Rocks, Hamas flags and chanting: Palestinians and cops clash again on Temple Mount
Police drone drops tear gas as rioters march on police post, but calm eventually restored; unrest comes hours after previous rioting; some 150,000 pray at Jerusalem holy site
By Emanuel Fabian and TOI staff22 Apr 2022, 3:28 pm
Clashes and unrest broke out Friday afternoon at the Temple Mount following afternoon Ramadan prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Calm was eventually restored at the holy site.
The rioting came hours after Palestinians skirmished with Israeli police at the flashpoint site in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Several hundred people scuffled with cops, hurling rocks and rioting. Video showed a police drone dropping tear gas to disperse a crowd.
Police said the crowd attempted to attack a locked police post on the Mount with stones. “The march was dispersed using riot dispersal means and it is currently calm in the area,” police said in a statement.
Earlier, tens of thousands of worshipers took part in the main prayers for the third Friday of the Muslim holy month. There were no official turnout figures, but Palestinian and Hebrew media reports estimated 90,000-150,000 worshipers attended.
After the prayers, large crowds waved Palestinian and Hamas flags and chanted slogans in favor of the Gaza-ruling terror group, which had called for a “mobilization” ahead of the prayers.
“We are the men of Muhammed Deif,” they chanted, referring to the notorious head of Hamas’s military wing, wanted by Israel for over 25 years for orchestrating suicide bombings, killings and kidnappings.
Some also shouted about a seventh-century battle in which Muslim forces massacred and expelled Jews from the Arabian Peninsula town of Khaybar. Another chant included calls to violently “redeem Al-Aqsa.”
Among those at the prayers were Palestinians from the West Bank, who were allowed to visit subject to restrictions put in place for Ramadan.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, a total of 57 Palestinians were hurt amid the clashes, including during the violence earlier Friday.
One Palestinian who was seriously hurt amid the riots during the morning hours was taken by police officers to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center.
Palestinians said the man was hit by a sponge bullet fired by officers, but police said he fell over after hurling stones during the clashes. “There is no evidence of injury from live ammunition,” the hospital said in a statement.
Police also said that in the morning a female officer was hit in the face by a rock thrown at her and was taken for medical treatment.
Meanwhile, officers arrested a man in his 60s, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, over an inciting speech he delivered before worshipers at the Temple Mount on Thursday night. According to police, the man, who is affiliated with the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir party, called to “liberate the mosque with weapons and force.”
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev visited a police station in the Old City during the morning rioting for a situational assessment with Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and the commander of the Jerusalem district, Doron Turgeman.
Shabtai later ordered reserve Border Police officers to be put on alert for immediate call-up over concerns the violence could spread to Arab cities like Umm al-Fahm and Nazareth, according to Hebrew media reports.
An unnamed security official told Channel 12 news and the Haaretz daily that Hamas has increased its efforts in recent days to incite a broader flareup, chiefly through the clashes at the Temple Mount. The source told the newspaper that the Waqf, a Jordanian-appointed council that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, attempted to prevent Palestinians from attacking police on Friday morning, with little success.
Similar violence has erupted almost daily at the Temple Mount since last Friday, when intense clashes broke out at the compound.
The Temple Mount is a frequent flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian tensions, with clashes there last year helping precipitate the 11-day military conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip after the enclave’s Hamas rulers fired rockets at Jerusalem. The site is the most sacred place for Jews as the location of the biblical temples, and Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits atop the Temple Mount, is the third-holiest site for Muslims.
The United Nations voiced alarm Friday over the recent violence. “We are deeply concerned by the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel over the past month,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Jerusalem has been a tinderbox in recent weeks as Palestinians scraped with police on the flashpoint Temple Mount, the Ramadan and Passover holidays drew thousands to holy sites, Israeli security forces cracked down on terror in the West Bank, and Gaza terror groups stoked the flames.
On Thursday, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said that “we are still at the beginning of the battle” and warned Israel over the Temple Mount.
His comments came after Israel and Gaza-based terrorists clashed in the largest exchange of fire since last year’s fighting, with the military carrying out air raids in the Strip in response to rocket fire and the launch of anti-aircraft missiles.
Along with Gaza and Jerusalem, the West Bank has also been a locus of recent tensions as security forces have ramped up operations after 14 people were killed in a series of terror attacks carried out by Arab Israelis and Palestinians.
Troops have been carrying out extensive raids in the West Bank in response to the attacks, with at least 18 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces. On Friday morning, a 20-year-old Palestinian who was shot by Israeli troops after allegedly hurling an explosive device at them in the town of Yamoun on Monday, died of his wounds.
Agencies contributed to this report.