Palestinians clashed with Israeli police on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Friday afternoon, mere hours after a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas went into effect.
It was not immediately clear how the confrontation had erupted. According to Israeli police, officers acted to contain a riot by Palestinian worshippers at the scene.
“Immediately after the noon prayer, a riot broke out on the Temple Mount by hundreds of young people that included throwing stones and throwing a Molotov cocktail at the forces,” Israel Police said in a statement.
The clashes marked the first test of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Frictions at the holy site — with Israeli security forces entering the compound and clashing with Palestinian rioters — were a major factor in the tensions that preceded Hamas’s rocket fire at Jerusalem on May 10, at the start of the 11-day conflict in which over 200 Gazans and 12 Israelis were killed.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, as the site of both biblical temples. It is holy to Muslims as the site of the third holiest shrine in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered at the flashpoint site for Friday prayers just after noon. After finishing, thousands chanted slogans and hoisted Palestinian flags.
In videos from the courtyard surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque several minutes later, police can be seen firing stun grenades at Palestinians as they attempt to clear the square. More than a dozen Palestinians were detained on the scene.
In another video from the scene, an Israeli cop is attacked by a Palestinian man who knocks him violently to the ground as Palestinians around him cheer.
بالقـ.ـنابل الصوتية.. لحظة استهداف قوات الاحتلال للفلسطينيين في باحات المسجد الأقصى pic.twitter.com/PELTrIgMgX
— AlQastal القسطل (@AlQastalps) May 21, 2021
Some Palestinian reports claimed the unrest was sparked when Israeli police sought to confiscate the Palestinian flags being waved by worshippers.
Twenty Palestinians were injured and two were hospitalized, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.
Palestinian terror groups have tied rocket fire from Gaza — which ceased early on Friday morning as the ceasefire took effect — to unrest in Jerusalem connected to both prayer on the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as well as the pending eviction of a number of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) May 21, 2021
In an attempt to avoid further confrontations, Israeli authorities have banned access by Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount for the time being. Many Palestinians view the visits as a provocation, while Jews say they are exercising their right to visit Judaism’s most holy place, even though Israel does not allow Jews to pray there.
Israeli politicians have said the ceasefire was unconditional, with “calm in exchange for calm.” Hamas said that it demanded Israeli concessions at the Temple Mount in exchange for the truce.
Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza celebrated the ostensible Hamas success in the conflict on Friday afternoon, holding large marches in major Palestinian cities.
“Fatah, Hamas, independents — everyone is happy. Maybe they’re jealous and had hoped their own faction would have a greater role, but even so — they’re pleased. Every patriot is thrilled…that our cause has again shaken the world,” wrote Alaa Abu Diab, a popular comedian and commentator, in a Facebook post.
In a protest at Ramallah’s Al-Manara Square, dozens of distinctive green flags with Arabic-language calligraphy could be spotted. The flags are widely seen as symbols of political Islam, and are also often used by Hamas supporters.
Demonstrators called out slogans hailing Hamas’s shadowy military commander and terror chief, Mohammad Deif, in the heart of the Fatah-dominated West Bank.
“Put sword against sword, we are Mohammad Deif’s men,” the protesters chanted in downtown Ramallah.
In videos on social media, hundreds of Palestinians could be seen chanting against Jerusalem Grand Mufti Mohammad Hussein inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque as he sought to give a Friday sermon. Hussein’s role is sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, which is led by Hamas’s main rival, Fatah.