UN Official Criticizes Fireworks Inside Islam’s Third-Holiest Mosque, Upsetting Palestinian Envoy

(CNSNews.com) – Amid skirmishes between Israeli security forces and Muslim young men who reportedly barricaded themselves inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, the Palestinian representative at the U.N. expressed dissatisfaction after a senior U.N. official included the Palestinians in his criticism, rather than directing it solely at Israel.

Riyad Mansour complained on Wednesday that Tor Wennesland, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, had included certain “elements” in his statement responding to the clashes at the flashpoint site.

Mansour told reporters in New York that Wennesland’s statement “fell way short of the expectations that we have.”

“The issue there – Palestinians, worshipers, have the complete right, without any clarifications, to exercise their right in that holy place, all the time, especially during the month of Ramadan,” he said.

“To try to add other elements is diminishing the horror of this aggression by the Israeli forces against our people,” Mansour continued. “You cannot be cold-blooded when you deal with a sensi – with an issue that is super-sensitive for those who are exercising their right to worship in this holy month.”


While Mansour did not spell out the “elements” that he found troubling, Wennesland’s statement was critical of both the Israeli actions and “the stockpiling and use of fireworks and rocks by Palestinians inside the mosque.”

“I am appalled by the images of violence inside the al-Qibli mosque,” Wennesland said, using an alternative name for al-Aqsa, the third-holiest in Islam after mosques in Mecca and Medina.

“I am disturbed by the apparent beating of Palestinians by Israeli security forces and large number of arrests,” he said. “I also strongly reject the stockpiling and use of fireworks and rocks by Palestinians inside the mosque.”

Another “element” in Wennesland’s statement that may not have met Mansour’s approval included his call for religious and political leaders “on all sides” to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and provocative acts.

Wennesland also noted that nearly 600,000 Muslims have visited the holy sites in Jerusalem since Ramadan began a fortnight ago. The observation does not align with the persistent Palestinian narrative that Israeli authorities are preventing Muslims from worshiping there during their most important religious holidays.

During a daily briefing at U.N. headquarters an Arab reporter asked a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres if he thought Wennesland’s statement was “fair,” pointing to his reference to the stockpiling of fireworks inside the mosque.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was not for him to analyze such statements.

“Mr. Wennesland spoke on behalf of the secretary-general,” he said. “He’s his representative on the ground. He says what he has to say.”

‘Desecrating the mosque’

Ramadan frequently brings a rise in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, often focused on the 35-acre hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City that is both home to the al-Aqsa mosque and is Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.

Ramadan this year coincides with Easter and the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, which began on Wednesday night.

After a relatively calm two weeks of Ramadan, violence erupted overnight on Tuesday.

According to Israel Police, “dozens of law-breaking and masked juveniles smuggled fireworks, clubs and stones into the mosque and violently barricaded themselves inside of it using iron rods, closets and other objects from the mosque which they vandalized, aiming to disrupt the order while desecrating the mosque.”

“The barricaded individuals began to chant incitement and riot inside the mosque, and locked its doors from the inside with obstacles and fortifications, blocking the doorways,” it said.

After attempts at dialogue failed, “police were forced to enter the compound in order to remove the individuals.”

Israel Police said rocks were thrown at police personnel and multiple fireworks set off. Video posted online also showed police using considerable force, wielding batons, and overturning chairs inside the darkened mosque as they sought to evacuate the premises.

After the clashes, militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel, prompting Israeli airstrikes and stoking concerns about yet another wider flare-up. The Iranian-backed terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad called on Palestinians to gather at al-Aqsa and confront the Israelis.

More clashes occurred around the mosque on Wednesday night.

“Tonight while police officers continued to allow many Muslims to celebrate Ramadan and safely reach the Temple Mount for the evening prayers, dozens of law-breaking juveniles, some of them masked, threw fireworks and stones into the mosque with the aim of disrupting the order,” Israel Police said.

“At some point the violent rioters tried again to close the mosque doors and prevent the worshipers from leaving the mosque in order to barricade themselves in the place. Police forces prevented the lawbreakers from closing the doors and helped the worshipers leave the mosque.”

China and the United Arab Emirates, representing the Arab group on the U.N. Security Council, requested an urgent council meeting on Thursday to discuss “the storming of the al-Aqsa mosque.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration was “extremely concerned by the continuing violence, and we urge all sides to avoid further escalation.”

“It is imperative now more than ever that Israelis and Palestinians work together to de-escalate tensions and restore calm,” she said during a briefing.


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