Masked rock-throwing Palestinians assaulted Israeli police who used stun grenades to turn them back on Sunday, Tishah B’Av, at Har Habayis.
Several officers were injured but none seriously.
The violent confrontation occurred Sunday morning after police sought to dislodge a group of Palestinians who had barricaded themselves inside the mosque at the site, holding it open illegally. They were acting on information of the group’s plans for violence during the day.
After forcing their way into the mosque overnight, the Palestinians had stockpiled a range of primitive weapons including rocks, wooden planks, fireworks and firebombs, which they hurled at the police who came to remove them from the entrance.
Police used stun grenades to get the rioters to back further into the mosque and then stepped inside its entrance way to close its main doors. This was according to long-policy which bars Israeli police from going further into the building.
Video footage of the scene released by police later in the day showed riot-equipped officers holding up large plastic shields against a prolonged barrage of rocks and other projectiles from inside as they cleared the entrance.
Calm was restored soon afterward.
Some Israeli officials condemned the rioting, but were also critical of the state’s failure to take a harder line with the rioters.
Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to instruct police and security forces to stop the rioting on Har Habayis, which has become frequent in recent months.
“Today’s events are a result of the lack of reaction and weakness of the government in facing a chain of recent terrorist events in Yerushalayim, which encourages the rioting Arabs to continue escalating their actions,” Lieberman charged.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev blamed it on “police incompetence in dealing with the rioters.”
Both said that Jewish visitors to the site, which have provoked the rioters, should be protected.
Gedolei Yisrael forbid Jews from entering the area of Har Habayis.
On Leil Tishah B’Av, a reading of Megillas Eichah at Me’aras Hamachpelah in Chevron was disrupted by unscheduled Moslem calls to prayer, which led to protests and clashes with police.
After repeated unanswered complaints by Jews to police at the holy site, tensions boiled over when several dozen Jewish youths responded to the provocation by barricading the muezzin in his room, preventing him from leaving
Subsequently, border police arrived to disperse the protesters. In the ensuing clashes, several arrests were made.