Clashes break out at Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day
Clashes between Jews and Palestinians broke out on the Temple Mount Sunday morning as celebrations of Jerusalem Day began.
One Jew was reportedly arrested by Israeli police forces Sunday for bowing on the Temple Mount. Others were detained for raising the Israeli flag, initiating the back-and-forth. Shows of Jewish faith, such as praying, has been prohibited from the Temple Mount due to security concerns.
According to reports in Israeli media, a group of Jewish visitors dressed in the traditional blue and white began singing after they entered the Temple Mount. Muslims at the site then chanted back “Allahu Akbar” at the Jews. Israeli police forces then were needed to separate both groups.
Video has circulated on social media showing young Israelis raising an Israeli flag and being confronted by Israeli police officers. Another video shows visitors laying on the ground, in an attempt to pray at the Temple Mount.
This year, tensions are particularly high following the United States' decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In comments to his cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the significance of Jerusalem Day.
"Jerusalem is mentioned in the Bible approximately 650 times. The reason is simple: For over 3,000 years it has been the capital of our people, and only of our people. We dreamed of returning to rebuild it, the city that is joined together – this is exactly what we are doing today," Netanyahu said.
"Jerusalem above and Jerusalem below, we are bound to this city. It is part of our soul, part of our experience, on both our material and spiritual sides."
Acting on Netanyahu's statements, his cabinet approved a series of measures aimed 'deeping sovereignty' over East Jerusalem, as they look to make good on Netanyahu's promise to “build up and develop Jerusalem, east and west, north and south.”
The proposals, which are estimated to cost 2 billion Israeli shekels ($500 million), include measures that strengthen Israeli control over East Jerusalem.
The plan solidifies Jewish land ownership claims in East Jerusalem, alongside converting the Palestinian curriculum to an Israeli one, developing Jewish-owned areas in the Old City and the Mount of Olives, and building a cable car from West Jerusalem to the Western Wall.
The opening ceremony for the US embassy in Jerusalem is set to take place on Monday, an event that threatens to escalate into further violence along the Gaza border and in the West Bank. It has been heavily condemned by the Palestinians as a “provocation” but lauded by Israel as a “historic” and long-awaited move.
Palestinians upset by the move have taken to the Gaza border to protest, sometimes by burning tires and by attempting to climb and cross the border.
Jews commonly attempt to visit the Temple Mount on the morning of Jerusalem Day. The site is considered to be one of the most important and historic locations in Islam and Judaism, and has served as a linchpin in the conflict many times.
Jerusalem Day is an Israeli holiday that annually commemorates the 'reunification' of Jerusalem after Israeli forces established control over it following the 1967 Six Day War. The reunification move however, has not been recognized by the international community.
Following the 1967 Six Day War, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and declared the city as its undivided capital. Jews had previously been banned from visiting the holy sites of the Temple Mount and Western Wall since the area was under Jordanian control from 1948.
Back in 1998, the Knesset passed the ‘Jerusalem Day Law’ assigning the day as a national holiday.
The day is vociferously marked by religious-Zionist communities in Israel, and does not tend to be marked by Jews in the diaspora.
It is criticized by left-wing groups, alongside the Arab population, for the controversy surrounding it, as some claim it marks the conquest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Activist groups last year participated in solidarity marches with Palestinians who were forced to close their shops by Israeli police during the duration of he march.
In the past, violent interactions have been reported between Arabs and the Israeli youth. Last year, clashes broke out at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City ahead of the march as police dispersed Palestinian, Israeli and American protesters attempting to block the path of the demonstrators.
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