JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) — A far-right Israeli lawmaker, accompanied by ultra-nationalist supporters, entered Jerusalem’s most sensitive location Sunday morning, prompting a mob of Palestinians to begin hurling stones and fireworks at Israeli policemen in the streets. the place.
The unrest began ahead of an ultra-nationalist Israeli march scheduled for later Sunday through the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City. There were some 3,000 Israeli police stationed in the city before the march.
According to Israel, the march is intended to celebrate the capture of East Jerusalem, including the old area, in the 1967 Middle East War. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital. But the Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state, see the march as a provocation. The parade last year helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Sunday’s tensions occurred in a disputed complex revered by Jews and Muslims. There is the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam. It is also the holiest to the Jews, who call it the Temple Mount and revere it as the site of temples described in the Bible. Competing claims to the site are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have sparked numerous rounds of violence.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of a small ultra-nationalist opposition party and a supporter of the late racist Rabbi Meir Kahane, entered the compound on Sunday morning with dozens of supporters.
Several Palestinians exclaimed “God is great” while Ben-Gvir, accompanied by Israeli police, shouted “the Jewish people live”. Later, Palestinians barricaded in the mosque hurled fireworks and stones at police, who did not respond at first.
Israeli National Police Chief Kobi Shabtai said his forces were prepared for “any situation” and had taken “professional and immediate” action when necessary.
“We will not allow any instigator or troublemaker to sabotage today’s events and interfere with law and order,” he said.
Sunday’s march was taking place at a time of heightened tensions. In recent months, Israeli police have repeatedly clashed with Palestinian protesters throwing stones at the disputed compound, often using rubber bullets and stun grenades.
In that period, some 19 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank, while some 35 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli army operations in the occupied West Bank. Many of those killed were Palestinian militants, but several civilians were also among the dead, including Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known correspondent for Al Jazeera satellite television.
Jerusalem police received international criticism for beating attendees at Abu Akleh’s funeral two weeks ago.
Under agreements reached years ago, Jewish pilgrims can access the Esplanade of the Mosques complex, but are not allowed to pray. However, in recent years the number of Jewish visitors has grown considerably, including some who have been seen praying discreetly.
That has stoked Palestinian fears that Israel plans to seize or partition the space. Israel denies those accusations and says it remains committed to maintaining the current situation.