For the first time since the start of the pandemic, tens of thousands of tourists are in Jerusalem for the Easter procession. But already on Friday morning there were riots. Hundreds have been arrested.
In an already tense security situation, more than 150 people were injured in clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The violence erupted on Friday morning after morning prayers ended at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The clashes have further heightened tensions in the region after a wave of terror in Israel in recent weeks.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, 90 people have been taken to hospitals. Dozens of injured are still being treated at the site.
Israeli police said Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday morning, throwing rocks and setting off firecrackers. About 100 rioters were among about 12,000 believers. Around 4 a.m., “dozens of young masked rioters”, some of whom carried flags of the Islamist armed movement Hamas, began a “procession” on the Temple Mount.
Police enter Al-Aqsa Mosque
They threw stones at the adjacent Western Wall, Judaism’s most important place of worship, after which Israeli security forces said they intervened to “restore order”. Security forces fired rubber bullets at Palestinian protesters, police said. The Israeli police speak of three wounded in their ranks.
Israeli security forces also entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested, Israeli police said. Israeli Foreign Minister Jair Lapid wrote on Twitter that the riots were unacceptable. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and the ruling Islamist Hamas in the Palestinian Gaza Strip have in turn blamed Israeli security forces.
Temple Mount Friday morning: Rioters reportedly fired rockets and threw rocks. (Source: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
The procession takes place despite the wave of terror
Tens of thousands of Muslims were expected in Jerusalem’s Old City for Friday prayers to pray on and around the Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif) during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The Passover holiday, which will also attract believers and visitors, also begins on Friday evening. The Ministry of Tourism expects a total of 30,000 foreign tourists this week alone. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam.
In the shadow of the clashes, hundreds of Christians in Jerusalem commemorated Jesus’ Stations of the Cross on Friday morning. The procession passed through the old town. There was a large contingent of security forces. For the first time in three years, tourists and pilgrims were able to enter the Holy Land at Easter. Due to the corona pandemic, Israel closed its borders to visitors more than two years ago. Entry of unvaccinated tourists has only been permitted again since March.
Protester on the ground: Security forces used tear gas. (Source: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Massive police presence in the old town
The security situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories is currently tense: in recent weeks, 14 people have been killed in four attacks in Israel.
The assailants of two attacks were Israeli Arabs linked to the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS). In the other two attacks, the assailants were Palestinians from the occupied West Bank. Just last week, a Palestinian shot dead three people in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv.
Israel fears more violence during Ramadan, which began earlier this month. Several Palestinians have been killed in military operations in the West Bank, in clashes with the army, but also in their own attacks.