Arab Riot Forces Israeli Police to Abandon Temple Mount Station, Weapons, Computers Looted
After retreating from mobs of Arab rioters who swarmed the Temple Mount in Jerusalem last Friday, off-record, some frustrated and embarrassed officers are now asking, “Why weren’t sufficient forces deployed to deal with them?”
For their part, higher-ups in the Israeli Police say, “The decision was made judiciously,” according to Israel’s Channel 2 News.
Last Thursday night, Muslims around the world celebrated Layl al-Qadir, indicating the end of Ramadan. During this period, thousands of Muslims flood the streets of the Old City and the Temple Mount, and the atmosphere can be highly volatile.
Police deployed some 4,000 officers throughout east Jerusalem in order to quell disturbances.
With tensions among the capital’s Arab populace already at a fever pitch over Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, police said they were forced to prevent violent attacks against Jewish residents in the Old City.
An “angry river” of Arabs headed towards the police station, according to Channel 2, and senior officials ordered the police contingent guarding the compound to leave the area immediately.
“They told us, ‘leave everything. Your life is more important than the equipment and structure, you should not be there,'” one officer said.
“There were riots on the Temple Mount, but instead of protecting the police station as a symbol of the country, they told us to leave the place and move towards the Old City.”
Thousands of rioters then took over the abandoned police station and looted property, including weapons, webbing, helmets, shields and other riot gear, office equipment, and computers containing data.
Some of the rioters took selfies of themselves and friends wielding the stolen gear, and, in a final act of protest, set fire to the place.
“We are ashamed that we are police officers,” one source said.
“If senior officials had intel that this was developing, why didn’t they stream forces to the area? Why didn’t they prepare? This omission requires a commission of inquiry. Police are trying to minimize the incident, but it is a very great stain,” a source said of police who were forced to flee the area on orders of their superiors.
“It was very shameful, I felt shame that that’s how the police behaved,” the source said.
The rioters, most of whom were masked, fled to neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem with the stolen equipment. A senior official who is also responsible for the security of the Temple Mount and the Old City claims that police failed, since they didn’t secure the area, and despite Arab areas of the city being full of cops, did not bother to use them to defend the police station.
“Being held back by the police from stopping rioters who attack an important symbol of the country, gives legitimacy to lawless people,” the official said. “I hope that the matter will be thoroughly investigated.”
“No matter what the considerations underlying the decision to leave the police station were, this should not happen in Israel. It looks very bad.”
Other senior officials, for their part, claimed that they were prepared for rioting on the Temple Mount, which is why they abandoned the post, and pointed out that weapons were moved out to prevent theft by the enraged mob.
Police were coping with some 35 separate events that evening, officials said in their defense, and it was decided not to confront the rioters on the Temple Mount. They asserted that it was the correct decision.
“Right, the images do not look good, but we took everything into consideration and the fact that in the end there were no fatalities – that’s what matters,” a source said.
According to the source, no expensive items or weapons were stolen, and added that, since the rioting began, about 400 suspects have been arrested.
“We’ll investigate anyone who took part in the ransacking,” a district police official said.
“We’ll get to everyone involved and bring them to justice,” the official vowed.