Two coinciding holy days and masses of worshipers sparked riots on the Temple Mount on Tishah be’Av. At the Gaza border two infiltration attempts were stopped, but terrorist attacks continue in Israel. Meanwhile, BDS politics entangle the U.S. and Israel.
Tishah be’Av Prayers on Temple Mount Spark Clashes
Riots erupted on the Temple Mount on August 11 as Israeli authorities allowed hundreds of Jewish worshipers on the grounds during Tishah be’Av.
The fast day commemorating the destruction of both Jewish Temples coincided with Eid al-Adha this year, a Muslim holy day connected to the cross-faith tradition of Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice. The timing of these two holy days brought hundreds of Jewish and Muslim worshipers to the Temple Mount along with heightened tensions.
Early in the day, those tensions erupted into riots after police lifted an initial security-based ban on Jewish worshipers entering the contentious site. The Times of Israel reports that Muslim protesters met the first groups of Jewish worshipers escorted by Israeli police with thrown chairs and other projectiles. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Around sixty Muslim protesters were injured in the clashes, according to the Red Crescent, and police said four of their officers were wounded.
The police anticipated the clashes and had already deployed extra forces around the Old City. On Friday before the fast day, the Muslim Waqf trust, which oversees the Temple Mount, called for Muslim worshipers to crowd Al-Aqsa Mosque and keep Jews from visiting the site. That didn’t deter record numbers of Jews from showing up at the gate for a chance to access the area. One report from the Jewish News Syndicate indicates that 1,700 Jews showed up compared to 1,400 last year.
The dramatic changes in access and subsequent violence on the Temple Mount ricochet through Israel’s domestic and international politics. On Sunday, the Jordanian foreign ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to reprimand Israel over what it called violations of international law and any talk of changing the status quo, according to the Times of Israel.
“It was also affirmed that the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Noble Sanctuary… is a place for Muslims to pray and worship only,” a statement said regarding the meeting.
Jordan is the recognized custodian of the Temple Mount as part of an arrangement in place since the 1967 Six-Day War that also bars non-Muslims from praying at the site.
As diplomacy roils, the situation on the ground was further heightened after two teenagers armed with knives attacked a group of police officers in near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. A surveillance camera that captured the attack shows one officer stabbed and moderately injured before others draw their weapons and shoot the attackers killing one and critically wounding another.
Israel Bans U.S. Reps Omar and Tlaib and Backtracks on Ban
Israel is entangled in a complicated political game that led to an entry ban for U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Omar and Tlaib have harshly criticized Israel and supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that has become a global boycott against Israel. Israel doesn’t have a historic policy of banning politicians who are critical of the state and the precedent behind this ban isn’t clear after a series of reversals and contradictions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that the representatives were barred from entry due to their vocal BDS advocacy, according to the Jerusalem Post. Netanyahu claimed that their itinerary was created around “planning a campaign whose sole purpose was to strengthen the boycott and to undermine Israel's legitimacy” and that Israel respects openness and criticism except for BDS activism. Israel implemented a law barring foreign BDS activists from entering Israel in 2017, but it has not been consistently implemented, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The ban of Omar and Tlaib was met with harsh criticism from Netanyahu’s political rivals, other Israeli politicians, and prominent U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle but it was supported by President Trump who tweeted that Israel would “show great weakness” if they allowed the visit.
Then a series of even more complicating events occurred. A July statement circulated from Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said that Omar and Tlaib would be allowed to visit, but that statement was countered by the Israeli foreign minister who claimed that at the time Dermer was speaking for himself and not the Israeli government, according to the Jerusalem Post. On Sunday, however, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again turned the stance around and said that Dermer’s statement was accurate at the time but that they had not received any itinerary details from Omar and Tlaib.
Meanwhile, the ban on Tlaib had been officially reversed only to let her visit her 90-year-old grandmother living in the West Bank. Tlaib announced that she will not take Israel up on that offer on account of the condition that she promise not to advance any boycotts during the trip.
JPost reports Tlaib and Omar referred to the visit as a visit to Palestine and had planned to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Hebron and meet with Israeli and Palestinian activists but not with any government representatives.
Gaza Infiltrations Stopped, Five Terrorists Killed
Two terrorist infiltration attempts from the Gaza Strip were stopped by Israeli troops recently who intercepted and killed the heavily armed suspects.
The first attempt on August 9 was a pair of heavily armed terrorists “with AK-47 assault rifles, RPG grenade launchers & grenades—one of which was thrown,” according to the IDF. After crossing into Israel, they were fired upon and killed.
The second infiltration attempt on August 17 was captured on video by IDF surveillance and shows three terrorists also armed with rifles making their way through brush toward Israel. They were also engaged by IDF troops and killed. Images of the bodies of the three men in their early 20s arriving at a hospital show at least one was in a military style uniform. During burial, the Jerusalem Post reports that their bodies were wrapped in flags belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah and Hamas’ Izzedin al-Qassem brigades.
These two clashes and the launch of three rockets into southern Israel, one of which struck the yard of a home, led the Sderot mayor to call for a full ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, an operation that has been arduously avoided through negotiation despite near full-scale war time and time again. Responding to criticisms of inaction, Netanyahu said that an operation of that scale wasn’t off the table regardless of the upcoming elections.
The weekly Gaza border protests continue as well. Last weekend thousands protested while groups rioted throwing rocks, firebombs, and more at IDF troops on the other side of the fence who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire, according to the Times of Israel. The Hamas-run Gaza Health ministry reported sixteen injured.
Israel has faced violence recently away from the Gaza Strip as well. On August 16, a Palestinian man rammed his car into Israeli civilians at a bus stop south of Jerusalem injuring two before being shot and killed by an off-duty police man. On August 8, nineteen-year-old Corporal Dvir Sorek was stabbed and killed in a terrorist attack while unarmed and out of uniform near the Yeshiva where he was studying. Two days later the IDF said they arrested the two suspects responsible.