JERUSALEM (AP) — A far-right Israeli lawmaker joined dozens of ultra-nationalist supporters into Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site early Sunday, prompting a group of Palestinians to begin throwing at nearby Israeli police Rocks and fireworks.
The unrest broke out ahead of a planned massive ultra-nationalist Israeli march in the heart of the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City later on Sunday. Before the march, some 3,000 Israeli police were deployed across the city.
Israel said the march was to celebrate Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital. But Palestinians seeking to make East Jerusalem their future capital see the march as a provocation. Last year, the parade sparked an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Sunday’s unrest took place at a disputed hilltop compound revered by Jews and Muslims. The compound is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest place for the Jews, who called it the Temple Mount and revered it as the seat of the Biblical Temple.Competing claims to the site are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have sparked multiple rounds of violence.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of a small ultra-nationalist opposition party and follower of the late racist rabbi, Merkahaneentered the compound with dozens of supporters early on Sunday.
Palestinians chanted “God is great” and Ben-Gvir, accompanied by Israeli police, chanted “Jews are alive.” A group of Palestinians locked in the mosque then threw fireworks and stones at the police, who did not immediately respond.
Israel’s National Police chief, Kobi Shabatai, said his force was prepared for “every scenario” and took “immediate and professional” action when needed.
“We will not allow any agitator or thug to disrupt today’s events and disrupt law and order,” he said.
Sunday’s march comes amid heightened tensions. In recent months, Israeli police have repeatedly confronted stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators in the disputed compound, often firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.
Meanwhile, some 19 Israelis were Palestinian attackers In recent weeks, in Israel and the occupied West Bank, more than 35 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank. Many of the dead were Palestinian militants, but several civilians were among the dead, including Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known journalist for Al Jazeera’s satellite channel.
Jerusalem police under international criticism beat up mourners At Abu Ackley’s funeral two weeks ago.
Under a longstanding arrangement known as the “status quo,” Jewish pilgrims were allowed into the hilltop compound, but they were not allowed to pray.In recent years, however, the number of Jewish tourists has increased significantly, including some who have been spotted pray silently.
Such scenes have sparked fears among Palestinians that Israel is plotting to take over or divide the region. Israel denies the claims, saying it remains committed to maintaining the status quo.