Jerusalem's holy sites threatened after teens throw rocks at Jews and tourists

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Clashes at Temple Mount. The U.S. State Department on Monday voiced concern about violence at the compound surrounding Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, an area revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount. | Photo by Ammar Awar/REUTERS

JERUSALEM (Christian Examiner) – A spokesman for the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which claims in its charter its desire to annihilate Israel, said Hamas militants are ready to commit "martyrdom" operations to defend the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, the Iranian News Agency (IRNA) has reported.

Riots broke out recently at the Temple Mount Plaza where Israeli Police were attempting to secure the site for Jewish and foreign visitors to the holy site for Rosh Hashana. Masked Palestinian youth met police with a barrage of stones, blocks and firecrackers, according to reports. It is also the site of the al-Aksa Mosque, where security forces pushed them inside the building. | File photo by Joni B. Hannigan/Houston

Hamas spokesman Mushir al­-Masri said the mosque needed to be defended from the "occupiers," or the Jews, after Israeli police and soldiers raided the Temple Mount Sunday, Sept. 13, while Muslim worshippers were inside the mosque.

Any more provocation in Jerusalem will affect the relationship between Jordan and Israel.

The police took action after Palestinian youths tried to disrupt the visit to the Temple Mount of both Jews and foreign tourists on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, which began at sunset. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year.

Al-Masri condemned the Israeli incursion on the disputed Temple Mount and said "Muslims should not remain silent over the crimes of the Zionist regime."

According to IRNA, which cited Palestinian witnesses, Israeli forces entered the mosque and caused damage to the structure, which is maintained by the kingdom of Jordan. Hamas alleged Israel was also planning to "Judaize" the Temple Mount and Al-Quds, the Muslim name for the Old City of Jerusalem still occupied.

"The al­-Aqsa Mosque compound, located in the Israeli­-occupied Old City of al­-Quds, is a flashpoint holy Islamic site. The location of the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism. The mosque is Islam's third holiest site after Masjid al­-Haram in Mecca and Masjid al­-Nabawi in Medina, Saudi Arabia," the Iranian news source said.

On Monday, Jerusalem's District Police Chief Moshe Edri ordered police back to the Temple Mount. As they entered, Muslim rioters with faces covered ran in the direction of al-Aqsa Mosque and threw objects, including rocks and bottles, at Israeli police. The forces overcame the obstacles that were placed in front of the mosque, forced the rioters inside, and shut the door behind them.

Police regained control of the area and allowed Jewish worshippers to tour the Temple Mount.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, custodian of the mosque, has expressed outrage over the presence of Israelis at the site, which is traditionally regarded as the site of the first and second temples in early Judaism.

"Any more provocation in Jerusalem will affect the relationship between Jordan and Israel" Abdullah said after the clashes Monday. Jordan and Israel have had a peace treaty since 1994, although fears of an ISIS takeover of Jordan have driven Israel to build an eastern border fence.

Iran supports Hamas in the Gaza Strip to Israel's south and the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Israel's north.