Israel boosts security for rare clash of holy days
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Israel boosts security for rare clash of holy days

Tensions rise across country ahead of Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur and Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha

Thousands gather for prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on the night before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, September 13, 2013. (Dror Garti/Flash90)
Thousands gather for prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on the night before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, September 13, 2013. (Dror Garti/Flash90)

Israel is tightening security in flashpoint mixed Jewish-Muslim areas to ward off possible unrest this weekend when two important religious festivals coincide for the first time in three decades.

The security measures come amid the arrest of two Palestinians in the northern West Bank Thursday after Israeli forces discovered them carrying three pipe bombs and other weapons, raising fears they may have been planning a terror attack.

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur begins on Friday evening, followed on Saturday by Muslim Eid al-Adha, against a backdrop of high tension over the seven-week Gaza war.]

Ahead of the two holidays, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar urged all mayors and religious leaders, both Jewish and Muslim, to work toward “creating an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding, consideration and tolerance among the people of Israel.”

Israeli security forces have said they will deploy additional personnel in east Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Hebron.

The authorities have also come to agreements with the Jewish and Muslim communities in mixed Israeli cities on the timing of celebrations.

The clash of festivals has not occurred for 33 years because the two faiths use different lunar calendars.

In East Jerusalem, additional police officers will be deployed around the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount, police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.

The site — the third holiest place in Islam, and the holiest in Judaism — is the scene of frequent confrontations between police and stone-throwing Palestinian youths.

Israeli security forces control access to the site, and will allow Muslims to enter on Saturday for dawn prayers, Samri said.

In the city of Hebron, which sees daily confrontations between Jewish settlers and Palestinians — or between Palestinians and police — soldiers will be manning dozens of checkpoints.

In the northern Israeli town of Acre, local Muslim official Abbas Zakur told AFP an agreement had been reached between the two communities on the timing of celebrations.

Muslims would celebrate and feast on Sunday, but from Saturday small electric cars will be provided for those wishing to go to the mosque to pray.

The electric cars would create less noise than motorized vehicles and would be less likely to upset religious Jews, Zakur explained.

The old city of Acre would be closed to all traffic, Zakur said.

Riots erupted on Yom Kippur in 2008 when an Arab resident drove through an observant Jewish neighborhood blaring music from his car stereo.

In other cities, including the mixed neighborhood of Jaffa in greater Tel Aviv, Muslim celebrations will be permitted from Saturday evening, just as the Jewish fast is due to end, Samri said.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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