The Rosh Hashanah holiday saw riots by radical Islamic operatives to undermine the status quo on the Temple Mount, which protects the right of Muslims to pray in the al-Aqsa mosque, and the freedom of all people to visit the Mount.
Update: September 27
On September 27, 2015, the eve of the Sukkot festival, several dozen masked men rioted on the Temple Mount between 8:15-8:30 after barricading themselves overnight in the al-Aqsa mosque, throwing firebombs and stones at the police stationed at the Mughrabi gate overlooking the Western Wall plaza – this in order to prevent rock-throwing at Jews praying there.
It should be noted that in honor of the third day of the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday, the age restriction on the entry of Muslims to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque was lifted – allowing the young men to stay in the mosque overnight and riot the following morning. Moreover, the Waqf and the Jordanian authorities were informed in advance that no non-Muslim visitors would be allowed on the Temple Mount that day.
Masked rioters barricade themselves in al-Aqsa mosque (Sept 27, 2015)
Copyright: Israel Police
PM Netanyahu to Cabinet (20 September): "If anyone has complaints about the development of this situation, they would do best to direct their criticism, not towards Jerusalem, but rather towards Ramallah, Gaza and agitators in the Galilee, and unfortunately, towards Turkey, from which incitement issues forth on a daily, even hourly, basis. There is not only the throwing of firebombs, but also something new – bringing explosives and pipe bombs onto the Temple Mount. Explosives in Al-Aqsa Mosque – that is changing the status quo. Israel will maintain the status quo. It will act responsibly, but with determination, to ensure that the existing arrangements are maintained. We have no plans to change them, but we also have no intention of allowing anyone to cause a deterioration of the arrangements on the Temple Mount by resorting to explosives and widespread violence."
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.
Barricades set up by rioters in the al-Aqsa mosque
Copyright: Jerusalem Police
Stones and blocks thrown at security forces
Copyright: Jerusalem Police
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.
Major sites on the Temple Mount – Click to enlarge
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.
Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall on Rosh Hashanah
Copyright: Israel Police webshot
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.