TENSIONS in Jerusalem rose sharply on Tuesday, after violent Palestinian protests on the Temple Mount that involved a firebomb attack on an Israel police post.
The attack wounded a policewoman. Israel responded by closing entrances to the Temple Mount, and to the al-Aqsa Mosque which is located there, until Wednesday.
Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for the Islamic trust that helps to run the mosque, blamed Israel for the disturbances, claiming: “Everything that happened was orchestrated by the police.”
The Palestinian Authority complained of a “dangerous Israeli escalation”.
UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov appealed for calm, saying, “Places of worship are for prayer, not for provocations and violence. Restraint must be shown to avoid inflaming an already tense situation.”
Police said that officers acted responsibly to deal with security threats, and that they needed to close the Mount to secure the area.
“During the searches in the area of the Mount, several containers containing flammable materials, firecrackers, and Molotov cocktails were found,” said police. “More than 10 suspects were arrested and detained for interrogation.”
However, the left-wing Israeli organisation Ir Amim criticised the reaction as “disproportionately harsh” and warned, “Continued use of excessive force or action deemed to undermine the status quo is extremely likely to ramp up tensions even further.”
The tensions in Jerusalem come as violence has flared on the Israel–Gaza border, with fire from Gaza to Israel, and IDF retaliatory strikes on Hamas targets.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Hamas will not get a free pass just because Israel is in the midst of an election campaign.
He said, “I heard people from Gaza saying that since we are in an election campaign a wide-ranging operation is out of the question. I suggest to Hamas – don’t count on it. We will do everything necessary to restore security and quiet to the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and to the south in general.”