As Muslim worshipers conducted Friday prayers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and mosques throughout the country in early afternoon, Israel’s Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch acknowledged fears of violence related to the Friday Land Day anniversary, but said he believed the day would ultimately “pass off quietly.”
As the minister spoke, scuffles were reported near north Jerusalem’s Kalandiya checkpoint, where troops were using stun grenades to disperse youths throwing stones and burning tires, Israel Radio reported.
Aharonovitch said police nationwide had been equipped with non-lethal crowd-dispersal means, and had been told to do their utmost to avoid a resort to live fire.
Some 1,200 police personnel were deployed in the north of the country, where a series of Land Day marches were taking place — annual rallies protesting alleged Israeli discriminatory land policies.
Aharonovitch said Israel’s policy was to “allow the rallies to proceed undisturbed” provided there was no breach of the law, but that any such breaches would be dealt with “determinedly and with strength.”
He said Palestinian officials had indicated that they would do their best to ensure no descent into violence in rallies in the West Bank, and that there had been “an ongoing dialogue” with Israeli Arab leaders to the same end.
Temple Mount prayers were limited to males over 40 with Jerusalem residency permits.
“It is a potentially incendiary combination” this year, the minister said in an Israel Radio interview, because the annual Land Day events “are combined with the Global March on Jerusalem” — a series of protests being organized in countries adjoining Israel, aimed at converging on Israel’s borders.
Nonetheless, he said, there were indications from at least some of the relevant countries that serious efforts would be made to ensure activists did not get close to border hot spots.
Referring to fatal clashes on the Syrian border last year, he added: “As for what happens on the border with Syria and Lebanon, the lessons have been learned.”