Muslim prayers on the Temple Mount Friday will be restricted Friday for fear of riots, police said. Only women, children and men over the age of 50 bearing Israeli ID cards will be allowed access to the holy site.
The announcement followed a protest in Jerusalem’s Old City that turned violent Thursday, when dozens of Palestinians hurled firecrackers and stones at police forces, while others attempted to set fire to the Lions’ Gate near the entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
According to Ynet, several demonstrators also burned an Israeli flag in protest of a recent government debate over Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount, as well as the death of an Arab inmate in the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba several days ago. The protesters were heard chanting “a million martyrs [will] march to Al-Aqsa.”
The protests began after a large number of youths requested to carry the body of Jihad al-Tawil, a traffic violator who died after being diagnosed with cancer and suffering a heart attack, up to the Temple Mount.
After police did not grant them access to the holy site, the youths attempted to ignite an abandoned police post near the Lions’ Gate. At that point, police broke up the gathering and the protesters fled towards East Jerusalem.
No one was reported to have been injured during the clashes.
On Tuesday, the Knesset held a first of its kind debate to examine the right of non-Muslims to enter and pray at the holy compound in Jerusalem, with over 30 MKs from both right-wing and left-wing parties seeking to voice their opinion on the divisive topic.
The discussion ended late Tuesday with no vote being taken.
Almost all of the parliament’s Arab members chose not to attend the session in protest over the decision to hold it.
The debate, headlined “the loss of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount” and rescheduled from last week, was initiated by right-wing lawmaker MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud), whose visits to the Temple Mount have drawn media and police attention. Feiglin was arrested for praying there in October 2012 and January 2013, before he became an MK, and visited the Mount earlier this week ahead of the debate.
Police restrictions bar Jews from praying or engaging in other religious activities while on visits to the Mount for fear that they will provoke a violent reaction from Muslims, a policy Feiglin said was absurd.
The Temple Mount is jointly administered by the Jordanian government and the Jerusalem-based Islamic Waqf, an arrangement that has been in place since Israel captured the Old City and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed them. Regarded as a holy site by both Judaism and Islam, proposed changes to the status quo at the Mount are often a source of unrest.
Hamas and Palestinian Authority officials, together with leaders of the Islamic Movement in the Galilee, have long accused Israel of planning to take control of the Muslim sites on the Mount.
Lazar Berman, Gavriel Fiske, The Associated Press and AFP contributed to this report.