Hundreds of Arab Muslims on Sunday violently attacked a small group of Jews who ascended Jerusalem's Temple Mount to mark Yom Kippur, the biblical Day of Atonement, atop Judaism's holiest site.
The Jewish group was accompanied by a large police escort, which fired stun grenades at the riotous Muslims while helping the Jews flee to safety. Police subsequently bowed to Muslim demands and banned all non-Muslim visitors from the site for the remainder of the day.
But the concession by Israeli authorities did little to appease the Muslims, and violence quickly spread to the streets of the Old City, where Arab youth hurled stones and firebombs at Israeli police. At least 22 Israeli police officers and 15 Muslim rioters were wounded in the Temple Mount and Old City confrontations.
Later in the evening, Arab youth in the Jerusalem suburb of Isawiya hurled at least 20 firebombs at Israeli Border Police officers stationed nearby, wounding five.
The racial tension continued on Monday, when a small group of Jews threw stones at Arab vehicles violating traditional Yom Kippur cultural norms by driving on a major thoroughfare that passes several Jewish neighborhoods en route to Bethlehem. Five suspects were arrested in that incident.
On Monday evening, Arab residents in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, the biblical City of David, threw two firebombs at the homes of Jewish neighbors, causing damage but no injuries. Police maintained a high security alter in the city on Tuesday, and arrested many of the Arabs involved in the violence.
The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, blamed the flare-ups on the Jews for provoking Arab Muslims by praying atop Jerusalem's Temple Mount on a Jewish holy day.
"At a time when [US] President [Barack] Obama is trying to bridge the divide between Palestinians and Israelis, and to get negotiations back on track, Israel is deliberately escalating tensions in Jerusalem," said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who vaguely threatened a new terrorist uprising if Israel did not halt such "provocations."
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights referred to the entry of Jews onto the Temple Mount as "settlement activity," and likewise blamed the resulting violence solely on the Jews and Israel.
Dr. Aaron Lerner of IMRA noted that the Palestinian reactions to the day of violence should highlight how impossible it is to reach an acceptable compromise regarding control of Jerusalem and its holy sites, an issue international peace brokers continuously push off as a "final status" issue.