Israel has closed the Temple Mount following a firebomb attack on the police station there, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.
The riots took place after Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that there would be “no second mosque on the Temple Mount” and expressed hope that Jews would be able to pray freely in the area in the future.
Scuffles have broken out, and Israeli authorities have made several arrests, The Times of Israel reported. One officer was treated for minor injuries from the firebomb.
“Jerusalem Police Commissioner Doron Yadid visited the Temple Mount and held a situational assessment there. He ordered it evacuated and closed in order to conduct searches for other weapons,” according to a police statement.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas characterized the situation as a “dangerous Israeli escalation” and warned of “serious repercussions.”
At issue is a compound at the Gate of Mercy.
Israeli and Jordanian authorities have been meeting to resolve the crisis over the disputed compound. The area was shut in 2003 because the group overseeing it was tied to Hamas. It has been kept closed to prevent Muslim authorities from carrying on illegal construction in the area.
Israeli officials believe that the Waqf, or Muslim religious authority, on the Temple Mount has destroyed antiquities while carrying out construction on the Temple Mount.
The Waqf has recently been attempting to turn the Gate of Mercy compound into a second mosque on the Temple Mount. After the Six Day War there was only the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. (The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque, though it is regularly used for Friday prayers.)
While the Palestinians have frequently accused Israel of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, in a recent paper, Nadav Haetzni and Lenny Ben David pointed out that it is the Waqf that has changed the status quo repeatedly.
In addition to setting aside more areas for prayer on the Temple Mount, the Waqf has limited access to the Temple Mount through the Mugrabi Gate alone, restricted the times and areas that tourists can visit the Temple Mount, and increased Jordan’s authority on the Waqf.
The only change in the status quo benefitting the Jews is allowing them to visit the Temple Mount, which was not allowed until five years ago.
“So, the common Muslim protest against Israel’s violation of the status quo is completely baseless,” Shragai and Ben David conclude. “In fact, the opposite is true. It has been the Muslim side that has been violating the status quo over the years on the Temple Mount.”
[Photo: Haaretz.com / YouTube ]