by Abe Selig
Jordan's king slams Israeli "provocation" after police storm Temple Mt.
Jordan's King Abdullah on Sunday night condemned Israel's "provocative measures in Jerusalem," after a day on which security forces stormed the Temple Mount to quell Arab rioting.
Abdullah made the remark after meeting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman.
Abdullah called on the international community to take immediate steps to "protect Jerusalem's holy sites."
He also criticized Israel's decision to include Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs and Bethlehem's Rachel's Tomb on its national heritage list.
Jerusalem's Old City had erupted in violence on Sunday morning when clashes between Arab rioters and security forces broke out on the Temple Mount and spread into the alleyways of the Muslim Quarter and the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el-Amud.
Four policemen were injured and upwards of a dozen Muslim protesters were reportedly hurt during the clashes, which were reminiscent of similar rioting that erupted in the area during Succot in October.
According to police, the violence began when some 30 Arab youths who had holed themselves up inside Al-Aksa Mosque Saturday night began throwing rocks at a group of visitors to the Temple Mount Sunday morning.
While Waqf officials had attempted to convince the youths to leave the compound Saturday night, their efforts proved futile and police, acknowledging the prospect of an outbreak of violence, banned men under the age of 50 from entering the site on Sunday.
The youths, who were thought to be protesting a government decision to include a number of religious landmarks – including Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron – on a list of national "heritage sites," fled back into the mosque after security forces stormed the Temple Mount compound, but some continued throwing rocks at police deployed in the nearby plaza.
Palestinian sources also reported that the youths had flocked to Al-Aksa over the weekend at the behest of Islamic leaders, who had told their followers to be prepared for a planned "Jewish takeover" of the site during Purim.
During the clashes, two policemen and two border police officers were lightly hurt by stones, and were treated at the scene. According to Palestinian sources, 12 people were injured from inhaling tear gas that was fired by police.
The violence also spread into the alleyways of the Muslim Quarter, where Arab youths hurled rocks at security forces near the Antonia Gate and Lion's Gate.
While security forces dispersed the youths, rocks and other debris could still be seen scattered about on the cobblestones later in the afternoon, and a handful of young men, some of whom were carrying rock-slings, remained congregated in the alleyways.
Additionally, some 10 Arab youths in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el-Amud hurled rocks at security forces, although police reported no injuries there and quickly brought the situation under control.
By late Sunday afternoon, police announced that all of the youths had left Al-Aksa mosque without further incident, and reported calm throughout the Old City and east Jerusalem. Nonetheless, three of the nine entrances to the Temple Mount remained closed and the age restriction on worshipers had not been lifted.
Police said that a total of seven people had been arrested on suspicion of hurling rocks.
According to a police source, had it not been for the heavy rains that soaked Jerusalem all day Sunday, the rioting would have likely been worse.
"One rule of thumb is that when it's raining, Jewish or Arab, it doesn't matter, people stay inside," the source said.
Inside the Muslim Quarter on Sunday, shopkeepers said that they doubted the current unrest would materialize into anything more serious.
"What will happen?" shopkeeper Anwar asked. "Nothing." "Things are very different now from 10 years ago," he continued, referring to the second intifada, which Palestinian's labeled the "Al Aksa intifada" – tying the uprising to a perceived threat against the holy site.
"Arafat is dead, Hamas and Fatah have split and the Palestinian Authority has made numerous deals with the Americans so that a large-scale uprising won't take place. But if the Israelis want things to calm down here, they should simply stay away from Al-Aksa,"Anwar continued.
"The only reason we're having these problems today is because the Israelis tried to go there."