A large group of Jewish pilgrims tried to carry out rituals for their annual Tisha B’av fast day in the vicinity of the mosque. Police reportedly intervened against the tense Muslim crowd at the mosque based on information that they were planning to riot in protest of the ceremony. Four Israeli police officers and several Muslims were injured during the confrontation.
It is currently unknown which side effectively started the clash, but the situation to the point police tried to close the Muslim crows inside the mosque, which retorted by throwing rocks and petrol bombs, according to Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld. He also denied allegations that Israeli police officers entered or raided the mosque, claiming that they only tried to close off the Muslim crowd inside the mosque to prevent further incidents.
Gulf News Palestina presents a heavily different account of the events, claiming that Israeli “ultra-orthodox communists” led by officials of Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s party Likud tried to raid the mosque, as part of an ongoing effort to ban Muslims from the site during the Tisha B’av ceremonies.
The Tisha B’av fast commemorates a number of calamities which happened to the Jewish people during their history, including the Roman-era destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem. Their former location is exactly on the grounds where the Al-Aqsa mosque resides now, on what is commonly known as the Temple Mound. The mosque was built about six centuries after the destruction of the temple, following the 7th century Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.
The site is currently under the administration of neighboring Jordan, which condemned the clashes. While praying rights are reserved exclusively to Muslims, Jewish pilgrims are allowed under armed escort inside the mosque – although they are forbidden to pray.
The location’s ingrate status as holy site for the two clashing religions has sparked worse violence in the past. In 2000, a visit by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the site sparked a full-blown Palestinian revolt known as the Second Intifada, which lasted for 5 years and caused over 4,000 casualties, of which most were civilian. The revolt ended in 2005, but sporadic clashes between Israeli and Palestinians continued in the following years.
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