JERUSALEM, Israel — Palestinian violence erupted at a Jerusalem holy site as a Muslim holiday and Jewish fast day coincided.
Tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers clashed with Israeli security forces on the Temple Mount on the first day of Eid al-Adha.
On Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, Muslims celebrate what they say was Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmael. They say, God stopped him and provided a lamb instead.
One Jerusalem resident blamed the Israeli police for the trouble.
“It was peaceful to start with, everyone was sitting down praising and glorifying for the Eid al-Adha, when (the police) attacked us like monsters,” Walaa said.
But other reports indicated that Muslims were angry because Jews were lining up outside hoping to enter the Temple Mount.
This year, the first day of the Muslim feast coincided with the Jewish fast day of Tisha b’Av – the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. According to Jewish tradition, the first and second Temples in the Bible, built on this site, were destroyed on this day.
Initially, on Sunday, the Jews were denied entry. Then, under heavy guard, about 1,700 were allowed to go up to the Temple Mount, the site of those former biblical temples.
According to a status quo agreement between the Israeli government and Islamic authorities, only Muslims are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. In addition, for years, some rabbis forbid Jews from visiting the site because of its holiness.
Others, like Gershon Salomon, who heads the Temple Mount Faithful, have always advocated for the rebuilding of the temple and during the last decade, there’s been a wider Jewish movement demanding the right to pray there.
“This situation on the Temple Mount can no more continue. When Jews, the people of the Temple Mount, of the land of Jerusalem, cannot come and worship on the Temple Mount, cannot rebuild the third Temple, as God called us to do. Jews were thrown out from the Temple Mount when they tried to come and worship,” Salomon said.
The incident turned political when opponents accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of preventing Jews from going up to the Temple Mount.
Ayelet Shaked, head of the New Right Party tweeted: “the entrance of Jews to the Temple Mount does not encourage violence, surrendering to terror certainly does.”
— איילת שקד ayelet shaked (@Ayelet__Shaked) August 11, 2019
Netanyahu fired back on Twitter to defend himself. He said he already decided last week the Jews could go up to the Temple Mount.
“Their question was not if they could go up, but rather how to manage it in the best way possible to ensure public safety,” Netanyahu said in a short video tweet.
He also responded to the criticism, saying, “I am unimpressed by all the recommendations of the Twitter cabinet. Leadership is responsibility and determination. That is how we operate.”
ביום חמישי לאחר התייעצות עם כל גורמי הביטחון קיבלתי החלטה: גם השנה, כמו בכל שנה, יהודים יעלו להר הבית ב-ט' באב, גם כשזה נופל על חג מוסלמי.
השאלה לא הייתה בכלל אם יעלו, אלא כיצד לנהל את זה בצורה מיטבית ביותר לבטחון הציבור וכך בדיוק עשינו. pic.twitter.com/OloirJJZrN
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) August 11, 2019
With Israeli elections just five weeks away, every incident becomes a political challenge to Netanyahu.
Also, over the weekend, the Israel Defense Forces thwarted two separate attempts of heavily armed terrorists to infiltrate from the Gaza Strip.