A Palestinian was hospitalized after hundreds of Israelis rampaged through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday night.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the mob “marched through the Old City from the Western Wall towards the Muslim Quarter, allegedly shouting, beating the doors of houses and shops, throwing rocks and smashing car windows.”
The Israelis attacked an open shop and assaulted its Palestinian owner, who was treated at a hospital overnight for his injuries.
The paper added that about 20 police officers arrived to the scene and escorted the mob outside the Old City, making no arrests.
Police said that a shop was damaged, as well as several vehicles.
Photos of the scene were published by the Quds news outlet:
The leniency shown by police towards the violent mob stands in stark contrast to the brutal force police used against Palestinians who held peaceful demonstrations in Jerusalem’s streets during the closure of al-Aqsa mosque compound this summer.
Louis Zorba, a resident of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, observed the blatant double standard to Haaretz, stating: “I told the officers that if it were Palestinians who were rioting, they would have sent for reinforcements, and probably shot tear gas and stun grenades.”
The riot came on the eve of a Jewish festival marking the Sukkot holiday, and amid Israeli police giving a longer leash to right-wing extremists who seek Jewish control over the al-Aqsa mosque compound, which Jews call Temple Mount.
The Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian outlet, reported that the rioting Israelis threw rocks and chairs at Palestinian property under police guard.
Israeli forces also closed streets in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood outside the Old City, so that settlers could access the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Hundreds of right-wing Israelis have visited the compound under the protection of Israeli occupation forces since the beginning of the week-long Sukkot holiday.
Some Israelis who came to the holy site on Thursday wore T-shirts with imagery of the Jewish temple bearing calls for the restoration of religious and sacrificial services at the site of al-Aqsa:
“Two thousand years of mourning,” one T-shirt reads. “We’re stopping the crying and starting to build.”
Temple Movement provocations
The Islamic Waqf endowment which administers the holy site told media that Israelis have performed prayers and religious rites at the compound, “in violation of a longstanding agreement between Israel and the endowment preventing non-Muslim prayer in al-Aqsa,” Ma’an reported.
Temple Movement activists held a religious ceremony very near the al-Aqsa compound for the first time on Sunday, in what Haaretz described as “a warming of relations between Orthodox Jewish activists and the police.”
The paper added that police were now allowing groups of hundreds of Jews to visit the al-Aqsa mosque compound, “whereas in the past they restricted groups to 15 people each. Security checks are now much quicker as well.”
A Temple Movement activist told Haaretz that police have normalized the movement: “Today they treat people going up to the Mount as Jews fulfilling a religious need and needing to receive a service. They’re not seen as a nuisance.”
The Israeli group Ir Amim states that Temple Movement groups’ “increasing power within the Israeli right-wing establishment … has bolstered their political ascent.” Temple Movement groups receive government funding and the “active support” of several members of parliament.
Prominent Israeli clerics and politicians have increasingly voiced support for the Temple Movement and some of its activists’ goal of destroying al-Aqsa mosque and replacing it with a Jewish temple.
Ir Amim warns of a potential eruption of violence in Jerusalem as record numbers of Temple Movement activists go to the mosque compound during Jewish holidays.
Unchecked Israeli assaults and incursions at al-Aqsa set off a new phase of violence in October 2015; in the year that followed more than 250 Palestinians and a Jordanian national were killed by Israeli forces and armed civilians, and 35 Israelis were killed by Palestinians.
Though the rate of casualties has subsided since – 58 Palestinians have died by Israeli fire so far this year, while 15 Israelis and a British national were killed by Palestinians – the Israeli provocation has not.
Palestinians barred from Ibrahimi mosque
Israel imposed an unprecedented 11-day general closure on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the Jewish holiday.
Occupation authorities also barred Palestinian worshippers from accessing Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque during Sukkot so that the site – revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike – may be visited by Jews only.
The mosque was partitioned by Israel following the massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers by an American Jewish settler at the site in 1994.
The city itself has been partitioned, with an area of Hebron including the Old City and Ibrahimi mosque under full Israeli military control. In that area Israeli occupation forces severely restrict the movement of more than 30,000 Palestinians while Jewish settlers move about freely under army protection.
The former bustling heart of Hebron’s Old City has been turned into a ghost town as Palestinians have been forced from their homes and businesses, and hostile Jewish settlers have moved in.
Many Palestinians view Israeli measures at al-Aqsa as part of an effort to erase all Palestinian life in Jerusalem as is underway in Hebron.
Meanwhile, in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, several Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces earlier this week as soldiers escorted hundreds of Jewish settlers to Joseph’s Tomb.
“According to [Palestinian security] sources, more than 30 Israeli buses carried settlers into Joseph’s Tomb under strict security by Israeli forces late Tuesday night until the early morning hours of Wednesday,” Ma’an News Agency reported.
“Locals said that during the raid, Israeli soldiers entered several homes in the area and took over the roofs of buildings,” Ma’an added.
Dena Shunra contributed translation from Hebrew.