BY JUDAH ARI GROSS, TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF
Clashes broke out between Muslim worshipers and police in the Old City of Jerusalem for the third night in a row on Tuesday, in response to Israel placing metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount compound following a terror attack in the area.
According to police, after evening prayers at a gate outside the Temple Mount, a group of Muslim worshipers “started throwing rocks and bottles at the officers” who were stationed in the Old City.
In response, the officers used riot dispersal equipment — notably rubber bullets and stun grenades — to break up the clashes, police said.
In videos from the scene, people can be seen running away as stun grenades echo across the Old City’s narrow alleyways.
The Red Crescent said 34 people were injured, including 14 people needing hospitalization. One person had a serious chest injury, a spokesperson said.
Police said two officers were lightly injured in the fighting.
Police said the area had calmed after the clashes.
“The area’s quiet,” a police spokesperson said.
Similar clashes broke out at the site on Sunday and Monday nights as well, as Muslim worshipers held protest prayers against the metal detectors outside the Temple Mount gates.
The detectors were set up on Sunday after a deadly terror attack that left two Israeli cops dead on Friday. The three killers, Arab-Israelis from Umm al-Fahm, emerged from the compound and opened fire on the police officers just outside. Following the terror attack, Israel made the rare move of closing the compound while it searched for more weaponry there, reopening it to Muslims on Sunday and to non-Muslims on Monday.
The metal detectors were touted as part of increased security measures, after police said the attackers stashed their weapons on the Temple Mount. The footage below shows the gunmen emerging from the Mount compound and opening fire on police officers on duty just outside. The two police officers killed were from the Druze community.
Israel’s decision to install metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount was immediately denounced by the Waqf officials who administer the holy site. They called the move “Israeli aggression.”
On Tuesday evening, lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List visited the Lions Gate outside the Temple Mount compound, also calling for removal of the detectors.
“We who seek peace and not war call on Netanyahu to immediately cancel the decision and return the situation to what it was before, to allow freedom of worship without any limits,” said MKs Ahmad Tibi and Osama Sa’adi in a statement.
To protest the new security measures, Waqf officials have staged protests in the Old City, gathering large groups of men to pray just outside the Temple Mount and encouraging others to avoid entering the flashpoint holy site.
However, these protests, which begin peacefully, often develop into minor clashes between the worshipers and police.
Earlier on Tuesday evening, the police said that while many Muslim worshipers had decided to protest the metal detectors, others have accepted them and visited the Temple Mount.
The assertion came as members the Waqf trust, which administers the holy site, persisted in their calls for Muslims not to enter through the metal detectors installed Sunday.
The police statement added that visits from Jews and tourists also continued Tuesday, though not without incident. Security forces removed two Jewish visitors from the compound, detaining them for further questioning.
“The Israel Police continues to act to enable a return to a safe routine in the Temple Mount area, its entrances and the wider area,” the statement said.
Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site but are prohibited from praying there.
The Palestinian Fatah movement has called for a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday to protest the new security measures.
The organization headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for marches in the West Bank toward Israeli checkpoints in protest of the new measures and announced that Friday prayers, when many worshipers go to the Temple Mount, would be conducted in public squares instead.
Palestinian officials denounced a “fierce and organized attack” by Israel against East Jerusalemites. They called for maintaining the delicate status quo at the Temple Mount, according to which the Jordanian Waqf manages the site while Israel controls access. Muslims accuse Israel of breaking the status quo by installing the metal detectors.
Misinformation regarding Israeli plans to make changes to the status quo surfaces frequently, roiling the Palestinian street and angering the Arab world.
The “Day of Rage” announcement came amid a night of unrest in East Jerusalem and the Old City as Palestinian rioters clashed with police, hurling stones and firebombs and blocking roads. At least 15 were injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Police officers called to Lions Gate in the Old City to disperse protesters blocking a road were attacked with rocks and other objects.