Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh warned Netanyahu not to “play with fire” and suggested that Israel “would pay” for the Temple Mount clashes.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Security forces in Jerusalem and Israel’s south are gearing up for fresh violence after two consecutive nights of unrest in the Old City over the weekend during which some 300 Arab rioters were injured and 17 Israeli police officers hurt, one seriously.
Sunday evening marks Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day – the anniversary of the 1967 reunification of the city according to the Hebrew calendar. The event is typically marked by prominent flag displays and parades throughout the Old City. On the heels of the clashes of the last few days, Israeli security forces are expecting more unrest during the celebrations.
Arab-Israeli Knesset member Esawi Frej of the left-wing Meretz party said on Twitter that celebrations should be rerouted away from the Old City this year, as “it only takes one match to light a fire…
“Approving this provocation…especially during this sensitive time, could turn this into Meron 2.0.”
Around 90,000 Arabs gathered at Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount Friday evening for Laylat Al-Qadr prayers, the holiest night of the Muslim month-long Ramadan religious holiday, and rioting ensued. The flashpoint compound is the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, and the holiest in Judaism.
Saturday night saw continued clashes, with another 100 Palestinians injured, mostly at Damascus Gate. No police officers were reported injured.
After Hamas and Fatah called on Arabs in Israel to travel to the Temple Mount for protests, Israeli police blocked busloads headed to Jerusalem on Saturday afternoon.
Rather than turn back, the Arabs blocked the highway, stopping traffic on one of Israel’s most central thoroughfares for several hours.
In an interview on Saturday, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to “play with fire,” and suggested that Israel “would pay” for the Temple Mount clashes.
“Neither you, nor your army and police, can win this battle,” Haniyeh said.
“It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount – in word and in practice,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
“Leaders across the spectrum must denounce all violent acts.”