Masked Palestinian youth attacked a group of Israeli Jews and tourists on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Monday, the second such attack in two days.
Six Palestinians were arrested after throwing rocks and other objects at visitors and Border Police officers at the site, which is the holiest in Judaism and home to al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. Police eventually forced the suspects into the mosque itself, allowing the group of 262 tourists and 33 Israelis to continue their visit. No injuries were reported.
“The violence is the result of Muslim worshipers objecting to Jewish visitors during [the Muslim holy month of Ramadan],” The Jerusalem Post reported.
Israel has allowed hundreds of thousands of Muslims to visit al-Aqsa for Friday prayers since the beginning of Ramadan. Non-Muslims were prohibited from visiting the Temple Mount during the last 10 days of Ramadan over the past two years, but a similar ban was not enforced this year.
Nonetheless, Jewish and other non-Muslim visitation to the site remains highly restricted; the Islamic Waqf, which administers the site, allows non-Muslims to use only one of the complex’s eleven entrances, and non-Muslims are forbidden from praying, singing, or making any kind of religious display.
Riots over the presence of Jews at the holy site are not uncommon. In September, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, dozens of Palestinian men threw firebombs and stones at officers stationed near the Temple Mount’s entrance for non-Muslims. Earlier that month, during the Jewish New Year, some 150 rioters attacked police with rocks, firebombs, and fireworks for three consecutive days.
A recent public opinion poll of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip found that 52 percent believe that Israel is planning to destroy al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock and build a synagogue in their place. While the Israeli government routinely rejects the charge, Palestinian leaders often declare that al-Aqsa is in danger, an accusation that predates the founding of Israel.
In his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in October, Washington Institute for Near East Policy distinguished fellow David Makovsky explained:
Sadly, the charge that Israel is out to destroy the mosque is not new. This claim was made in 1929, resulting in riots in Hebron that killed 63 people. More recently, fatal violence surrounding the Temple Mount occurred in 1991 (20 killed), 1996 (87 killed), 2000 (153 killed within the first month of violence), and 2014 (9 killed).
Claims that Israel seeks to destroy al-Aqsa have helped fueled a wave of violence that has killed 38 people and injured over 465 more since last September.
On a tour of the Temple Mount in August, a congressional delegation witnessed a group of Jewish visitors to the holy site being accosted by a group of Islamic activists.
“I wish it was something the world understood more and was more aware of,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), whose own group was also harangued while at the compound. “Even when visiting a historical site there is harassment, because of people who want to rewrite history.”
[Photo: Palestinian media]