The Temple Mount will be closed to Jewish visitors and tourists on Thursday due to the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice, Israel Police said Wednesday night.
The Muslim holiday coincided with Yom Kippur for the second time in two years, and Israel tightened security in Jerusalem and the West Bank to be on alert for possible unrest.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also issued orders to ease restrictions on access to West Bank Palestinian worshipers to the holy site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, which houses the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque. It is the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest in Judaism.
Married Palestinian men from the West Bank over 45 years of age, and women 30 years old and over, will be allowed to pray at the site, according to Ya’alon’s instructions, which were described as overtures.
The defense minister’s directive comes after a full closure on the West Bank and the shutting of all crossings between Israel and Gaza over the Yom Kippur holiday, and after nearly two weeks of tensions on the Temple Mount, including almost daily clashes between Palestinian rioters and police forces last week and an uptick in rock throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks in and around Jerusalem.
The clashes were triggered by a police raid at the mosque in the run-up to the Jewish new year festival of Rosh Hashanah last week that turned up pipe bombs, stockpiles of rocks and firecrackers as well as a barricade at an entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque.
Muslims have expressed anger over visits by Jews to the site and fear rules governing the compound will be changed. Under a five-decade-old status quo — established by Israel after it conquered the site in the 1967 Six Day War — Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but not to pray there.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly he is committed to the status quo at the site.
Over the Yom Kippur holiday, police reported several instances of rock throwing in the capital, including two cases in Beit Hanina, Pisgat Ze’ev and Talpiot, all of which resulted in no injuries. A Magen David Adom Ambulance sustained minor damage from a rock-throwing incident.
Overnight Tuesday, firefighters responded to a fire in a residential building in the Abu Tor neighborhood of Jerusalem, Channel 2 reported. Officials believe the fire was sparked by a firebomb thrown at the apartment building. No injuries or damage were reported.