Palestinian worshipers clashed with Israeli police on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Sunday morning, as hundreds of Jews were expected to visit the area throughout the day to mark the fast day of Tisha B’Av, which mourns the destruction of the two Jewish Temples that stood at the holy site.
The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism, as the site of the biblical Temples. It is also the site of the third-holiest shrine in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and has long been a flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, dozens of Muslim worshipers barricaded themselves on the Temple Mount ahead of the arrival of Jewish worshipers.
Israeli police entered the site and used sponge-tipped bullets and “crowd dispersal methods” to clear the area.
The Ynet news site reported that some of the Palestinians threw rocks and that clergy in East Jerusalem called on followers to come to the site — this week marks the start of Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday commemorating the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.
עשרות מוסלמים התבצרו הלילה במסגד אל אקצא במענה לקריאות להגיע למקום ולמנוע עליית יהודים להר הבית בתשעה באב. עימותים התקיימו במקום עם המשטרה, שירתה כדורי ספוג ואמצעים לפיזור הפגנות. לא נמסר על נפגעים@SuleimanMas1 pic.twitter.com/xc7ru9tGsg
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 18, 2021
The clashes came a day after a report said Israel has quietly started allowing Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount in recent months, in what would appear to be a major change to the status quo that has existed at the holy site since the Jewish state captured the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during 1967’s Six Day War.
Anxious to reduce friction with the Muslim world, and given that Orthodox sages generally counsel against ascending the Temple Mount for fear of treading on the sacred ground where the Temple’s Holy of Holies stood, Israel since 1967 has allowed the Jordanian Waqf to maintain religious authority atop the mount.
Jews have been allowed to visit under numerous restrictions, but not to pray.
A Channel 12 reporter, however, in recent days filmed prayers taking place at the site, as policemen — who in the past would eject any person suspected of prayer, and sometimes kicked people out for merely citing a biblical verse while speaking — passively looked on.
The report said that in addition to prayers, lengthy Torah lessons have been held on the Mount, again with the tacit approval of the police.
Palestinian terror groups have tied rocket fire from Gaza that sparked 11 days of conflict with Israel in May to unrest in the capital connected to both clashes on the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the pending eviction of a number of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.