Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld: Officers entered the compound shortly after 7:30 a.m., after receiving intelligence that a large group of masked Palestinian youths had barricaded themselves overnight in al-Aqsa mosque in order to attack Jewish visitors on Sunday morning. The police were attacked immediately upon entering the Temple Mount compound by Palestinians armed with rocks, firebombs, fireworks and metal pipes. Four officers were lightly wounded during the confrontation.
On Sunday morning (26 July 2015), a group of young Arab men rioted on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City. The riots 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 and attack Israel police officers.
After an initial attack on police officers, the Arab rioters retreated to the al-Aqsa mosque, exploiting this holy site to launch more violent attacks on the police, who were outside, from inside the mosque. The violence was only stopped after the police were able to close the outer doors to the mosque, thereby isolating the rioters.
The stockpiles of rocks, fireworks and firebombs used by the rioters and the barricades they placed in the entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque all demonstrate that the violence was pre-planned and that the rioters intended to focus the violence around the mosque. The al-Aqsa mosque is situated at the southern end of the Temple Mount plaza, covering a relatively small part of its surface and is one of dozens of buildings located there.
Timeline of events:
A group of young Arab men, some of them masked, barricaded themselves inside the al-Aqsa mosque overnight (25-26 July).
While inside the mosque, the group stockpiled rocks, planks, wooden sheets and fireworks, and also prepared Molotov cocktail firebombs. They set up barricades to prevent the outermost door to the al-Aqsa mosque from being closed. The barricades were composed of large cabinets (that normally hold the shoes of worshippers), wooden planks, metal rods, ropes tied to the mosque doors, marble slabs and other items.
On Sunday morning, the masked men gathered in the courtyards of al-Aqsa, armed with rocks and fireworks. When they saw police officers on the northern staircase near the mosque, the men began throwing rocks and firing fireworks at the police.
The rioters then took the sunshades that had been put up outside the mosque for Ramadan worshippers, placed them inside the mosque and used the screens as shields to hide behind while attacking the police through the mosque’s entrance.
When a group of police and border guard officers led by a senior policeman entered the Temple Mount plaza, the rioters retreated to the al-Aqsa mosque and launched a heavy barrage of rocks, metal rods and heavy blocks at the officers from within the mosque. They also fired fireworks vertically at the officers and sprayed an unidentified liquid on them.
Under a continuous barrage of dangerous objects, the police officers began to remove the barricades blocking the doors to the mosque. Fireworks launched by the masked rioters injured a number of police officers.
In order to restore calm after the violent escalation by the rioters, the police entered a few meters into the mosque to remove the barricades erected in the entranceway to the mosque. In this way, the police were able to close the mosque’s doors, which kept the rioters inside, and conditions on the Temple Mount returned to normal. Soon after, the status quo was restored and visitors were able to tour the Temple Mount plaza.