September 24, 2014
Statement comes after clashes on holy site; two Jews arrested for praying in compound ahead of holiday
by Spencer Ho
Following clashes in and around the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch called for Jewish worshipers to have full access to the site.
“It is important to open the [Temple Mount] to Jews, tens of thousands of worshipers come here,” he said while touring the area, according to Israeli news source Ynet.
The earlier clashes were apparently triggered by the early-morning visit to the site by a group of Jewish visitors ahead of the start of the two-day Rosh Hashanah holiday, which begins at sundown.
Two of them were arrested for violating an order barring Jews from praying at the site, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
She told AFP that Palestinian youths had thrown stones and petrol bombs at police, injuring several, who had “pushed the rioters inside the Al-Aqsa mosque.”
Police also blocked all access to the compound, which lies in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, to prevent the unrest from spreading.
Near the compound, police were seen throwing stun grenades at a small crowd of Palestinians waiting just outside Lion’s Gate, one of the entrances to the Old City.
One policeman suffered head injuries in the scuffle.
Occasional bangs of stun grenades could be heard coming from the esplanade.
Following the clashes, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party went up to the Temple Mount, according to reports.
The fighting came amid a reported uptick in rock and Molotov cocktail attacks in East Jerusalem, and a police crackdown on rioters, with hundreds of arrests.
Aharonovitch said there had been a 30 percent drop in rock-throwing attacks since the arrest campaign, and firebomb attacks had tailed off completely.
The Al-Aqsa compound is the scene of frequent clashes, usually between Palestinians and Israeli police.
It houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and is revered by Jews as the location of the biblical Jewish temples, considered Judaism’s holiest place.
Security forces regularly impose an age limit on worshipers attending Muslim weekly prayers on Fridays, keeping out men under the age of 50.
Non-Muslim visits to the Al-Aqsa complex are permitted and regulated by police, but Jews are not allowed to pray at the site for fear it could trigger major disturbances and unrest.
The Old City and wider East Jerusalem have been the scene of regular, violent clashes since the murder of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists in July.
Clashes intensified during a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, but even after conflict ended on August 26, they continued to happen.
On September 7, 16-year-old Mohammed Sinokrot died from injuries sustained when he was shot by Israeli border police in East Jerusalem, bringing thousands of angry demonstrators on to the streets.