The 1990 Temple Mount riots, or the Al Aqsa Massacre, also known as Black Monday, was an event that took place at the Temple Mount, Jerusalem at 10:30 am on Monday, 8 October 1990 before Zuhr prayer during the third year of the First Intifada. They began after a decision by the Temple Mount Faithful to lay a cornerstone at the site, and Arab rioting against Jewish worshippers. The riots resulted in the death of over twenty Palestinians, with more than 150 people injured, including Palestinian civilians and worshippers. It was condemned by UN Security Council resolutions 672 and 673.
Tensions around the Temple Mount began much earlier than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It has great religious significance for both Judaism and Islam. In Judaism, the Temple Mount is the site of the first and second temples, the first built by King Solomon, and the second by Jews returning from Babylonian exile, both extensively written of in the Old Testament. The Qur'an does not mention either the Temple Mount or Jerusalem by name, but it is believed they are the enigmatic "al-Quds" mentioned as the place where Mohammed is believed to have stopped over on one of his flights to Makkah, the Muslim holy site towards which devout Muslims pray.
For almost two thousand years, Jews have yearned to return to the Temple Mount, though their ancient temples were destroyed and they were exiled from the area. Today, the Temple Mount remains the holiest site in Judaism, and all over the world Jews pray towards the Temple Mount. After the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem, a mosque was built on the Mount, roughly on the site where the courtyards of the Temples once stood. In Islam, the "Noble Sanctuary" as it is called, too has religious importance and is considered a symbol for Muslims all around the world, where it was the first kiblah for Muslims before Makkah and the presence of the "Dome of the Rock" there which Prophet Muhammad's Isra and Mi'raj took place.
Jews were barred from returning to the Western Wall or the Temple Mount until Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. Previous to this, under Jordanian control, no Jews were allowed access to the site. Since then, Israel has allowed control of the Temple Mount to remain with the Islamic Jerusalem Islamic Waqf in order to preserve the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Under the stipulations of this agreement, there is to be freedom of access and religion, however all religious prayer except Muslim is banned.
In this instance, there was tension between Palestinian worshipers and a religious extremist group known as the Temple Mount Faithful, who proposed to rebuild the Temple where the Al-Aqsa Mosque now stands. According to The New York Times, Haaretz, as well as Palestinian human rights groups, the Israeli Supreme Court had earlier barred the Temple Mount Faithful group from marching to the Temple Mount due to five previous attempts by the group to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque for destructive purposes that September.
According to Anthony Lewis, a year earlier, the Temple Mount Faithful had planned a demonstration in front of the mosque and Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem warned of a catastrophe if the event occurred.
According to the Israeli "Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Events on Temple Mount on 8 October 1990":
The members of the Wakf knew that the High Court had refused the Temple Mount Faithful petition to lay the cornerstone of the Third Temple, and did not respond to requests by Israel Police officers on the morning of the incident to calm the crowd. This, even after the police informed the Wakf that they would also prevent the Temple Mount Faithful, and anyone else, from visiting the area, though such visits are allowed by law.
According to Anthony Lewis:
Palestinians on the Temple Mount began throwing stones at Jews worshiping, on a religious holiday, at the Western Wall below. The only security forces present, 40 men from the paramilitary Israeli Border Police, used live ammunition on the Palestinians. They killed at least 21. There were no Israeli deaths. The Israeli Government claimed that the Palestinians brought the stones with them and staged the incident as a political provocation. The Temple Mount is a paved plain that usually has few if any stones. But at this time construction work did provide material for missiles. Zeev Schiff, the respected defense correspondent of the newspaper Haaretz, said the Palestinians began throwing stones only after mosques in the nearby village of Silwan announced through loudspeakers that Jewish extremists had come there. The extremists were from the Temple Mount Faithful, who proposed to rebuild Solomon's Temple where the Al-Aqsa mosque now stands.
According to the "Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Events on Temple Mount on 8 October 1990":
The incident itself began when, suddenly, violent and threatening calls were sounded over the loudspeakers "Allahu Akbar" [God is Great], "Ahad" [Holy War], "Itbah Al-Yahud" [Slaughter the Jews]). Immediately afterwards, enormous amounts of rocks, construction materials and metal objects were thrown at Israeli policemen who were present at the site. Many in the incited, rioting mob threw stones and metal objects from a very short range, and some even wielded knives. The actions of the rioters, and certainly the inciters, constituted a threat to the lives of the police, the thousands of worshippers at the Western Wall and to themselves. This was a serious criminal offense committed by masses who were incited by preachers over loudspeakers, and this is what led to the tragic chain of events. [...] Nineteen policemen were injured as well as nine Western Wall worshippers. According to Police statistics, 20 people were killed and 52 injured on the Temple Mount.
The UN Security Council noted on the death of 20 Palestinian people and the injury of 150, including Palestinian civilians. Sources note between seventeen and twenty-three Palestinians were killed.
On October 10, The United States proposed a resolution, supported by the United Nations Secretary General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, to investigate the al-Aqsa incident and to report back to the Security Council promptly. which was by far the most critical of Israel introduced by the United States. The UN issued the following resolution on October 12, 1990, referencing the event:
Res. 672 (Oct. 12, 1990) – "Expresses alarm at the violence which took place" on October 8, 1990, "at the Al Haram al Shareef and other Holy Places of Jerusalem resulting in over twenty Palestinian deaths and to the injury of more than one hundred and fifty people, including Palestinian civilians and innocent worshippers", "Condemns especially the acts of violence committed by the Israeli forces resulting in injuries and loss of human life", and "Requests, in connection with the decision of the Secretary-General to send a mission to the region, which the Council welcomes, that he submit a report to it before the end of October 1990 containing his findings and conclusions and that he use as appropriate all the resources of the United Nations in the region in carrying out the mission."
Israel ended up rejecting the resolution, saying it did not pay attention to attacks by rocks on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall. In turn, the UN Security Council unanimously backed UN Security Council Resolution 673 on Oct. 24, 1990 condemning Israeli rejection of the UN fact finding mission.
Deplores the refusal of the Israeli Government to receive the mission of the Secretary-General to the region", and "Urges the Israeli Government to reconsider its decision and insists that it comply fully with resolution 672 (1990) and to permit the mission of the Secretary-General to proceed in keeping with its purpose.
Human Rights Watch condemned Israel's response to the riots in their Annual 1990 World Report.
The Israeli Government claimed that the Palestinians brought the stones with them and staged the incident as a political provocation.The Temple Mount is a paved plain that usually has few if any stones. But at this time construction work did provide some stones.
Israel rejected the UN resolution condemning the incident and calling for investigation, saying it did not pay attention to attacks on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall, and that it was an interference in its internal affairs. Israel refused entry to the mission, with Resolution 673 urging Israel to reconsider its decision.
On October 26, 1990, Israel issued a report concerning the violence and concluded that Israel police acted with prudence once it came under attack citing fear for the safety of policemen on Temple Mount. The report also had some criticism of the police for not assessing properly the situation and not being prepared with a larger force to deal with any eventuality.
Human Rights Watch condemned the Israeli report on the incident as "only mentioning in passing the 'uncontrolled use of live ammunition' by police, giving scant attention to what should have been a central issue: the use of excessive force, including shooting into a crowd with bursts of automatic-weapon fire."
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