Israeli security forces were trying to allay fears in the old city of Jerusalem and were bracing for clashes with Muslim worshippers as they gathered for Friday afternoon prayers at the Temple Mount.
Israel’s security cabinet met for many hours and have decided to leave the metal detectors in place at Temple Mount, which Muslims refer to as Al Haram/Al-Sharif. This comes after a terrorist incident there last week where three terrorists killed two Israeli policemen before being killed in a shootout at Temple Mount.
Security forces were braced for a standoff with Muslim worshipers in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday afternoon after the security cabinet decided to leave the metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount.
“Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and to protecting the safety of worshipers and visitors,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. The Tel Aviv meeting began late Thursday night and ended in the early hours of the morning.
The police said in a statement on Friday morning that it was decided to heighten security in and around the old city.
“Police and border police units are mobilized in all areas and neighborhoods and will respond to any incidents or disturbances throughout the day,” the statement reads.
The area of the Old City and the adjacent streets – including Sultan Souliman street – will be closed for traffic.
The statement added that there are intelligence indications that extremists are planning to “disrupt the order violently,” and that the forces on the ground are prepared to secure the Friday prayers.
Thousands of officers have been stationed near Temple Mount and the IDF has allocated five battalions to be used if necessary. On Friday morning, the police prevented buses of Muslim worshipers from entering Jerusalem.
The Shin Bet (Israel’s Security Service) had argued against maintaining the metal detectors fearing it would lead to violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Channel 2 that “once the red line has been crossed of automatic weapons on the Temple Mount [as seen in last Friday’s terrorist attack], there is a need to change the security arrangements.” He said the metal detectors should remain because the focus should be on preventing future terrorist attacks.
“We object to these metal detectors because they seize the control we have as the Wakf to direct al-Aksa Mosque,” said al-Aksa Mosque director Sheikh Omar Kiswani. “This is a breach for an internal case: Al-Aksa Mosque is for Muslims – only for Muslims – and we will never accept these metal detectors.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Palestinians to head to the Temple Mount.
“My clear message to the Zionist enemy is that al-Aksa and Jerusalem are a red line,” said Haniyeh. “I say to the Zionist enemy that the policy of closure and of implementing punishment measures against the Jerusalemites and the holy sites will never pass.
You [Israelis] never learn from history, and do not read geography.
You are blinded by your power. My clear word to you is that you should stop, you are lighting a fire.”
The US has called for the calming of tensions at the Temple Mount and in a statement said that the US, “calls upon the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to make a good faith effort to reduce tensions, to find a solution that assures public safety and the security of the site and maintains the status quo.”
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