Israeli police faced off against Palestinians throwing rocks at Jews outside Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque June 6 during Israel’s annual celebration of its 1967 capture of East Jerusalem. Police hurled several stun grenades as they moved into the area known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). Two Jews were slightly injured and one Palestinian was arrested.
Israel Radio said local Muslim religious authorities had appealed for calm as several hundred chanting Palestinians faced off against police and waved green Islamic flags outside al-Aqsa in protest of what Israelis call “Jerusalem Day.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, commenting on the incident, told reporters in the West Bank that visits by right-wing Jews to the holy site could have “dire circumstances.”
Jewish visitors regularly tour the compound, where two biblical temples once stood, but Israeli authorities do not allow them to enter al-Aqsa or hold any political demonstrations.
The Temple Mount Faithful, a Jewish fringe group that wants to build a new Jewish temple at the site, also marched in Jerusalem’s Old City that day, and announced plans to enter the compound to pray. “We will liberate the Temple Mount,” said signs carried by the group of around 50.
Marchers also held aloft a cardboard coffin marked “disengagement,” showing their opposition to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to evacuate all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four of 120 in the West Bank starting in mid-August.
In the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the militant Islamic Jihad group said any harm to al-Aqsa would be met with “martyrdom operations, rocket firings, infiltrations and bombings.”
A Palestinian uprising erupted in September 2000 after Sharon, then Israel’s opposition leader, toured the compound. Violence has abated somewhat since Abbas and Sharon declared a ceasefire in February.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital. (Reuters, June 6)
See also “Raiders of the Lost Ark: Secret Wars for the Temple Mount,” WW4 REPORT #83