Palestinian Factions Urge Escalation of Attacks on Israel Following Friday Prayer Riot on Temple Mount
Palestinian Islamist and nationalist factions alike on Friday promised a further escalation of clashes with Israeli security forces, following a morning of rioting on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that resulted in 150 people wounded and more than 400 arrests.
Video posted by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to its Twitter account showed masked youths gathering in the early hours of Friday in the vicinity of the Temple Mount, the site of the Al Aqsa mosque. The youths collected stones and large rocks that were later hurled at Israeli police during six hours of clashes at the holy site. By the afternoon, however, order had been restored, with up to 50,000 Palestinian worshipers peacefully attending afternoon prayers during the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Hamas — the leading Palestinian Islamist faction — issued a statement following the violence that lauded the rioters’ “heroic confrontation with the Zionist occupation forces.”
“Our nation will stand up to come to the aid of the al-Aqsa Mosque and its worshipers, and just as they won all their fights against this regime, they will also defeat the occupiers in this battle,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum declared, pledging that “the whole Palestinian nation and the heroic resistance groups, as well as their vigilant forces and children of the freedom-seeking nation” would come to the aid of Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Separately, Hamas’s principal sponsor said that the violence in Jerusalem proved that those Arab and Muslim states to have made peace with Israel had failed to change its policies towards the Palestinians.
“The Zionist regime’s brutal acts against the Palestinians have increased since some leaders of Islamic and Arab countries turned their backs on the Palestinian cause,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh asserted.
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) was no less belligerent in its response to the clashes, accusing Israel of attempting to extinguish the Muslim and Christian presence in Jerusalem on the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday.
The Israeli authorities were attempting “to Israelize and Judaize Jerusalem and abuse its Christian and Islamic sanctities, especially the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the PA’s Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said on Friday.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry pushed back against the Palestinian claims, insisting that the rioters’ “actions have nothing to do with prayer, and in fact desecrate the mosque and the month of Ramadan.”
“Police were forced to enter the grounds to disperse the crowd and remove the stones and rocks, in order to prevent further violence,” the foreign ministry said on Twitter.
As more than 50,000 Palestinians, some carrying nationalist and Islamic flags, prayed peacefully at the Al Aqsa Mosque on Friday afternoon, Israel reiterated its commitment to “freedom of worship in Jerusalem.”
On an eve-of-Passover visit with an undercover unit of Israel’s Border Police in the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that efforts were underway to “calm things on the Temple Mount and throughout Israel.” A wave of Palestinian terror against Israel in recent weeks has resulted in the deaths of 14 people, with further outrages feared.
As he wished the Border Police unit a happy Passover, Bennett underlined that Israel remains “prepared for any scenario.”