(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
Protesters rioted in East Jerusalem neighborhoods overnight Tuesday against new security measures at the Temple Mount, throwing stones and petrol bombs at police and shooting fireworks at Israeli forces. At least 50 Palestinians and one officer were reported hurt.
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The disturbances come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party on Monday called for a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday in protest against the new measures, including metal detectors installed following a terror attack in which three Arab-Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers at the Temple Mount on Friday.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Jerusalem police commissioner Yoram Halevi said the city was tense but quiet on Tuesday morning after what he described as a difficult night of protests, with youths throwing stones at officers and setting dumpsters on fire.
Halevi said that many of those who took part in the rioting were encouraged to do so by the provocative statements that came from the Palestinian leadership.
He said despite the protests Israel would not back down on the new security measures.
“We are determined to create [a situation of] security after the killing of two police officers,” Halevi said. “While the families are still sitting and mourning, we can’t let this just pass.”
The placement of the metal detectors at the Temple Mount has also been met with outrage by the Waqf, the Muslim religious authority charged with managing the Temple Mount. Muslims have held prayers outside the metal detectors to protest their placement at the gates.
Israeli border policemen install metal detectors outside the Lion’s Gate, a main entrance to the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 16, 2017, after security forces reopened the ultra-sensitive site, whose closure after a deadly attack earlier in the week sparked anger. (AFP/ AHMAD GHARABLI)
During the night there was rioting at two focus points in and around the capital, police said in a statement.
In Silwan, an East Jerusalem neighborhood just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, rioters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police and targeted them with fireworks.
A police officer was taken to the hospital in after being hit in the leg with a rock. His condition was described as good. A police squad car was damaged in the clashes, the statement said. Cops arrested one suspect who was holding a knife.
Police used riot dispersal methods to counter the protesters during which police “identified a hit” on one of the rioters, the statement said. Police did not say what the incident involved but noted that they later received a report that the suspect made his own way to Al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.
In Issawiya, another East Jerusalem neighborhood, youths threw Molotov cocktails and shot firecrackers at police. Two suspects were arrested. In addition, another four suspects from the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Wadi Goz and Sur Baher were detained for taking part in the rioting during the night.
Earlier Monday there were clashes at the Lions Gate to the Old City, the scene of the shooting and knife attack during carried out by three Arab Israelis. After shooting officers Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, who died of their injuries, the attackers retreated into the Temple Mount compound where they were shot dead by pursuing police.
The Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said in a statement Tuesday that 50 were injured during the confrontations at Lions Gate and in other clashes during the night.
Of those injured 15 were transferred to the Makassed Hospital and 35 were treated by paramedics on the ground. Sixteen people were injured by rubber-coated bullets, nine by stun grenades and 25 had injuries caused by beatings from police, the statement said.
Four members of the Red Crescent were also injured while treating other people, the organization said.
Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)
Following Friday’s terror attack Israel closed the Temple Mount compound for the first time in decades, only reopening it to Muslims on Sunday and to non-Muslims on Monday.
As part of the security measures taken in the wake of the shooting to prevent further such attacks, police installed metal detectors at the entrance to the site, which Halevi said were necessary for it to reopen. Friday’s gunmen, residents of the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, had emerged armed from the compound and opened fire on the police officers stationed outside.
Fatah on Monday called for marches in the West Bank toward Israeli checkpoints in protest of the new measures and announced that Friday prayers, when many worshipers go to the Temple Mount, would be conducted in public squares instead. The decision was made following a meeting between Fatah Revolutionary Council secretary Adnan Ghaith, Fatah central committee member Jamal Muheisin, and Fatah representatives from the northern West Bank.
The group said the measures were called in order to denounce Israeli “terrorist procedures” in the Old City, according to a report in the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
The officials called for maintaining the delicate status quo at the Temple Mount, denouncing a “fierce and organized attack” by Israel against East Jerusalemites.
Along with other Islamic groups, the Waqf trust, which administers the site, on Monday called on Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”
In its statement, the Waqf called on the faithful not to enter the mosque by passing through the metal detectors, adding, “If the metal detectors continue to be imposed, we call upon the people to pray in front of the gates of the mosque and in the streets of Jerusalem.”
Jews revere the site, where the two Jewish temples stood in biblical times, as the Temple Mount. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the nearby Western Wall, a retaining wall of one of the temples, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.
Muslims regard the same hilltop compound as the Noble Sanctuary. Home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. It is Islam’s third-holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
The Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, July 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Thomas Coex)
The fate of the compound is an emotional issue and forms the centerpiece of rival Israeli and Palestinian national narratives. Any perceived changes to the delicate arrangements at the site can spark tensions. Its closure after Friday’s attack prompted condemnations from the Arab world, many of which made no reference to the terror attack that prompted the closure.
Dov Lieber and AP contributed to this report.