Israeli police are to boost their presence at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound for a Jewish day of mourning commemorating the destruction of ancient temples there, a spokesman said on Friday.
“Hundreds of extra police will be carrying out security measures in and around the Old City of Jerusalem” on Tisha B’Av, which begins on Saturday night and ends 25 hours later, Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement.
Rosenfeld said thousands of Jews were expected to visit the Western Wall during the day.
Advocates for prayer rights for Jews at the esplanade, the holiest site in Judaism and known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam, have called on Jews to visit the sensitive area.
Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray there, under arrangements agreed by Israel after it captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 war, but the site has been the scene of regular incidents.
Jerusalem has been at the heart of a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October in which 34 Israelis and four overseas citizens have been killed. Some 220 Palestinians have died in the same period, most of them when carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, and others in clashes with Israeli security forces, according to Israeli authorities.
While the number of attacks has declined in recent weeks, Palestinian fears of Israeli intentions to undermine Muslim control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound were a central component in the violence erupting 10 months ago.
Palestinians argue that Israel is seeking to change the status quo at the compound, a claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly denied. Netanyahu accuses the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence against Israel by misrepresenting the history of the Temple Mount and Israel’s intentions there.