Western Wall plaza and Temple Mount
Western Wall plaza and Temple MountIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Two police officers and two Muslims were injured Sunday morning when Arab riots erupted on the Temple Mount. The area was immediately shut down, although the Western Wall plaza remained open to Jewish worshippers. One police officer lost his temper and cursed the Jews.

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Eight suspects were arrested in eastern Jerusalem following the incident, according to Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld, who said that scattered disturbances were continuing around the area, primarily near the gates to the Old City and in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. A security presence has been beefed up in the area, he added.

The riots began after Jewish worshippers arrived to begin preparations for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which begins Sunday at sundown. Arabs who worship at the mosque on the site started hurling rocks at approximately 7:30 a.m. as a group of 100 Israeli Jews attempted to enter the Temple Mount.

It's all because of you religious Jews!

A mob of some 150 Muslim worshippers surrounded the Jews, according to Rosenfeld, who told Israel National News that officers on the scene fired stun grenades at the rioters, and were able to bring the riot to a halt. A dialogue was opened with Muslim Waqf officials in an attempt to calm the situation, but ultimately riot control procedures were required.

Police closed the Temple Mount, but the Western Wall plaza was kept open, contrary to prior reports. "I was there this morning and everything was proceeding as usual, people were praying as always. It was open," said Rosenfeld.

A number of Jewish eyewitnesses present at the scene told the Hebrew-language Arutz Sheva that minutes after the riot some police officers began cursing the Jews who had been hoping to pray at the site. "It's all because of you religious [Jews]," one policeman said bitterly, according to an eyewitness who requested anonymity. The source said the police officer added insults and curses that could not be published.

Jerusalem police should deal with Arab rioters and not violate the freedom of Jewish worshippers who want to pray.

The Jerusalem district police spokesman denied the charge, and told Arutz Sheva that the claim was a "provocation" by some Jewish worshippers and said "if that is what they say about police officers endangering themselves for them, they should be ashamed."

Following the incident, MK Michael Ben-Ari sharply criticized the conduct of the police officers. "Jerusalem police should deal with the Arab rioters and not violate the freedom of Jewish worshippers who want to pray," he said.

Large numbers of Jews visited the Western Wall (Kotel) overnight Saturday for the final Selichot prayer service before Yom Kippur. The central Selichot service was held at 12:30 PM Saturday night, led by former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and current Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger. Police estimated that more than 100,000 worshippers attended that service alone.

Yom Kippur Curfew in Judea, Samaria

A curfew was imposed midnight Saturday in Judea and Samaria, and will be lifted at midnight after the end of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

During that period, Palestinian Authority Arabs will only be allowed to cross the pre-1967 border into areas solely controlled by Israel for unusual medical and humanitarian reasons. Each individual case will require the approval of the Civil Administration.