Palestinian terror groups threatened Israel Friday night after intense clashes broke out between police and Palestinian worshipers at the Temple Mount’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh said that Israel would “pay a price” for the clashes at the mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. The hilltop on which it sits is the holiest place in the world for Jews as the site of the two biblical temples — making it a flashpoint for nationalist sentiment and violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We tell [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu: don’t play with fire. This is a battle that you cannot win. Israeli arrogance and tyranny will be smashed on the stones of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Haniyeh said.
Israeli police burst into the Al-Aqsa compound on Friday evening after Palestinians threw rocks and bottles at officers, as widespread clashes in Jerusalem spread to the holy site following prayers held there on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Video from the scene showed pitched battles, with Palestinians throwing chairs, shoes, rocks and bottles and shooting fireworks, and police responding with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Police said 17 police officers were hurt and around half of those hospitalized, with one in moderate condition after taking a rock to the head. Meanwhile the Palestinian Red Crescent reported that at least 205 Palestinians were wounded in clashes throughout Jerusalem, mostly around the Temple Mount and by Damascus Gate. Eighty-eight Palestinians were hospitalized, mostly for injuries with rubber-coated steel bullets, it said.
“The enemy is acting foolishly in Jerusalem, and they don’t realize what the results will be,” Haniyeh added.
On official Palestinian Authority television, PA President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for what he deemed “vicious aggression” in the Al-Aqsa compound.
“We hold the Israeli occupation government absolutely responsible for what is happening in the holy city in terms of dangerous developments, vicious aggression, and what may result from it,” Abbas said.
“The ruthlessness of the settlers only increases our insistence on claiming our legitimate rights: the end of the occupation, the achievement of independence and freedom, and the establishment of our sovereign, independent Palestinian state with its eternal capital Jerusalem,” Abbas added.
Islamic Jihad, a terror group that often fires rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory, also threatened Israel over the Al-Aqsa clashes.
“What’s happening in Jerusalem tonight cannot pass idly by. The enemy can expect our response at any moment,” said Islamic Jihad chief Ziyad al-Nakhaleh.
After capturing East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, Israel continued to grant the Waqf, which is funded and controlled by the Jordanian government, near-complete control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque area.
Israeli security forces are present on the mount and work in coordination with the Waqf. Jews are allowed to visit the site, but unlike Muslims they are strictly prohibited from praying on the grounds.
In a statement Friday, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry called for Israel to immediately withdraw its forces from the Temple…