On Sunday, 13 September, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, a group of some 150 radical Islamic operatives rioted on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif plaza in Jerusalem's Old City. The riots were launched with the intent of undermining the status quo on the Temple Mount, which protects the right of Muslims to pray in the al-Aqsa mosque, as well as the freedom of all people, regardless of their faith, to visit the Mount. The rioters disrupted visits by tourists and Israelis to the Temple Mount plaza - the holiest site in Judaism.
The operatives clearly planned their aggression many days ahead: they had barricaded themselves in advance inside the al-Aqsa mosque, where they stockpiled rocks, planks, wooden sheets and fireworks, and also prepared Molotov cocktail firebombs and explosive devices.
The riots continued for three consecutive days, throughout the Jewish festival, as the masked operatives threw rocks, fire bombs and firecrackers at the police, who responded with non-lethal riot dispersal measures. The explosive devices launched by the masked rioters injured a number of police officers and ignited several fires, which were extinguished by the police.
In order to restore calm, the police had no choice other than to remove the barricades erected in the entranceway to the mosque, and to close the mosque doors, creating a partition between the rioters and visitors. Soon after, conditions on the Temple Mount returned to normal and visitors were able to tour the Temple Mount plaza.
The events were reminiscent of the similar incident which took place in July 2015. The riots then were launched with the intent of disrupting visits by Jews to the Temple Mount plaza - the holiest site in Judaism - during Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av), a holy day of mourning to commemorate the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples, as well as to interrupt the normal visits of tourists to the plaza. Then, as now, the stockpiles of rocks, fireworks and firebombs used by the rioters and the barricades they placed in the entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque demonstrate that the violence was pre-planned and that the rioters intended to focus the violence around the mosque.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly declared that the Government of Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and will oppose any attempt to change it forcefully. The status quo protects the right of Muslims to pray in the mosque, as well as the freedom of all people, whether Muslims, Christians, Jews or others, to visit the Temple Mount .
The radical Islamist rioters on Temple Mount have deliberately desecrated, damaged and endangered a site holy to Muslims and to Jews, turning it into a battle field, using stones, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices. Israel will not allow the al-Aqsa mosque to become a terrorist stronghold.
The stockpiles of rocks and weaponry used by the Palestinian rioters and the barricades they placed in the entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque all demonstrate that the violence was pre-planned.
While the Israeli authorities take measures designed to ensure freedom of religion for all, allow access to all of Jerusalem's holy sites, uphold the status quo on the Temple Mount and maintain public order, there are many on the Palestinian side who are actively attempting to change the status quo and to undermine the delicate balance and long-standing modus vivendi in Jerusalem.
Over the past four years, Islamist radicals have endeavored to violate the status quo by preventing non-Muslims from visiting the Temple Mount, most often during Jewish holidays. Two such groups, the Mourabitoun and the Mourabitat, were declared illegal organizations on 8 September 2015 due to the grave threat they pose to the public order. They are funded and led by the Hamas and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, and are directed to attack visitors, as well as the police, with rocks, iron rods, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices.