JERUSALEM – The Palestinian Authority was behind violent clashes on the Temple Mount today that left 24 people wounded hours before the start of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, according to both Israeli security sources and a source inside the PA.
Earlier today, clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshipers erupted at the Temple Mount and at several sites throughout Jerusalem’s Old City.
The incidents reportedly took place just as a group of Jewish visitors ascended the Mount – the holiest site in Judaism.
Much of the Palestinian news media is claiming the Jewish worshipers were right-wing Israeli extremists who ascended the Mount to threaten the site. In actuality, many of the Jewish dozen or so visitors today were tourists and were part of a guided group that regularly ascends the Mount during daily hours when Jewish visitors are permitted.
According to multiple witnesses as well as to Israel’s police spokesman, Shmulik Ben Ruby, the clashes began as soon as the Jewish group entered the site.
Immediately, about 150 Palestinian worshipers hurled rocks at the Jewish group and at policemen who were escorting them, slightly wounding two policemen. Police responded with stun grenades while whisking the Jewish visitors away.
Palestinians at several areas in Jerusalem’s Old City also began hurling rocks at Jews today.
Today’s clashes had all the trappings of a pre-planned Palestinian campaign.
Indeed, Israeli security officials told WND they have specific information that Ahmed Rweihi, the chief of the PA’s so-called Jerusalem unit, was in touch with demonstration leaders at the Temple Mount the past few days and personally incited today’s violence.
An official in the PA, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not deny Rweihi helped incite the clashes.
The PA has in the past orchestrated riots on the Temple Mount that later escalated into massive terrorist campaigns to pressure Israel into extreme concessions.
In September 2000, the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshipers after then-candidate for prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the Mount.
At first, the Palestinians claimed the stone throwing was spontaneous. Later, top PA officials, including PLO leader Yasser Arafat and his deputy, Marwan Barghouti, admitted the Temple Mount clashes were pre-planned.
The 2000 intifada began after Arafat turned down an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem.
Clashes follow Obama’s demand for ‘1967 borders’
Today’s clashes follow a three-way meeting last week between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly last week, Obama used strongly worded language to call for the creation of a “viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.”
The term “occupation” routinely is used by the Palestinians as well as some countries hostile to the Jewish state in reference to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It is unusual for U.S. presidents to use the term, although Jimmy Carter once famously called Israel’s presence in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem “illegal.”
“Occupation that began in 1967” is a specific reference to the lands Israel retained after the Six Day War of that year, particularly the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.
Temple Mount: No pray zone
Israel recaptured the Temple Mount during the 1967 Six Day War. Currently under Israeli control, Jews and Christians are barred from praying on the Mount.
The Temple Mount was opened to the general public until September 2000, when the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshipers during Sharon’s visit.
Following the onset of violence, the new Sharon government closed the Mount to non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian traffic for fear of further clashes with the Palestinians.
The Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It remains open, but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and not on any Christian, Jewish or Muslim holidays or other days considered “sensitive” by the Waqf.
During “open” days, Jews and Christians are allowed to ascend the Mount, usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or bring any “holy objects” to the site. Visitors are banned from entering any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission. Rules are enforced by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert nearby Israeli police to any breaking of their guidelines.
Muslim holy site?
King Solomon built the First Temple in the 10th century B.C. The Babylonians destroyed it in 586 B.C. The Jews built the Second Temple in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple in A.D. 70.
The First Temple stood for about 400 years, the Second for almost 600. Both temples served as the center of religious worship for the whole Jewish nation. All Jewish holidays centered on worship at the temple – the central location for the offering of sacrifices and the main gathering place for the Jewish people.
According to the Talmud, God created the world from the foundation stone of the Temple Mount.
The site is believed to be the biblical Mount Moriah, where Abraham fulfilled God’s test of faith by demonstrating his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Jewish tradition also holds that Mashiach – literally “the anointed one,” the Jewish Messiah – will come and rebuild the third and final temple on the Mount in Jerusalem and bring redemption to the entire world.
The Western Wall, called the Kotel in Hebrew, is the one part of the Temple Mount that survived the Roman destruction of the Second Temple and stands to this day in Jerusalem.
The Temple Mount has remained a focal point for Jewish services for thousands of years. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple have been uttered three times daily by religious Jews since the destruction of the Second Temple. Throughout all the centuries of Jewish exile from their land, thorough documentation shows the Jews never gave up their hope of returning to Jerusalem and reestablishing their Temple. To this day Jews worldwide pray facing the Western Wall, while Muslims turn their backs away from the Temple Mount and pray toward Mecca.
Muslims constructed al-Aqsa Mosque around A.D. 709 to serve as a place of worship near a famous shrine, the gleaming Dome of the Rock, built by an Islamic caliph, or supreme ruler.
Muslims later began to associate al-Aqsa in Jerusalem with the place Muhammad ascended to heaven. Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque,” and from a rock there ascended to heaven to receive revelations from Allah that became part of the Quran.
While Palestinians and many Muslim countries claim exclusivity over the Mount, and while their leaders strenuously deny the Jewish historic connection to the site, things weren’t always this way. In fact, historically, Muslims never claimed al-Aqsa Mosque as their “third holiest site” and always recognized the existence of the Jewish temples.
According to an Israeli attorney, Dr. Shmuel Berkovits, Islamic tradition mostly disregarded Jerusalem. He points out in his book “How Dreadful is this Place!” that Muhammad was said to loathe Jerusalem and what it stood for to the other monotheistic faiths.
Muhammad also made a point of eliminating pagan sites of worship and sanctifying only one place – the Kaaba in Mecca – to signify the unity of Allah. As late as the fourteenth century, Islamic scholar Taqi al Din Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings later influenced the ultraconservative Wahhabi movement in Arabia, ruled that sacred Islamic sites exist only on the Arabian Peninsula, and that “in Jerusalem, there is not a place one calls sacred, and the same holds true for the tombs of Hebron.”