Israeli security forces were on high alert Friday in Jerusalem, with thousands of extra police officers being deployed to the Old City ahead of Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.
The heavy security comes after a major spike in violence since the release last week of the Trump peace plan, which the Palestinians slammed as biased toward Israel, and threats from Palestinian terror groups.
Jerusalem police chief Doron Yadid ordered the large-scale deployments, police said, after a day of violence that included three attacks on Israelis, a shooting attack near the Temple Mount and a car-ramming terror attack at a popular entertainment spot in the capital, which injured 12 soldiers, one of them seriously.
Three of the servicemen injured in Thursday’s car-ramming attack in Jerusalem remained hospitalized on Friday. Doctors at Shaare Zedek Medical Center said the seriously injured soldier’s condition improved slightly overnight, but he was still unconscious and connected to a respirator. The other two soldiers who were lightly wounded were receiving ongoing treatment and surgery, according to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem.
Muslim prayers on Friday frequently become displays of anti-Israel incitement and terror support during times of escalating tensions.
The Hamas terror group on Wednesday called on Palestinians to step up confrontations with Israel, singling out the Temple Mount.
“We call for escalating confrontations with the occupation and its settlers and fighting their assaults against the land and holy sites, especially the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas said in a statement posted on its official website.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad praised the recent violence and called for further attacks.
“The heroic attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem are proof that our nation rejects the ‘Deal of the Century,'” a spokesperson said Thursday, referring to the Trump peace plan.
The terror group called on Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem to “continue attacking checkpoints and settlements.”
Recent weeks have seen police forced to disperse Palestinians who gathered at dawn prayers at the holy site after they began chanting “nationalist” slogans, including references to killing Jews.
However, the much larger midday prayers have largely passed peacefully.
The site is the holiest in Judaism as the site of the biblical Temples, and the third holiest for Muslims, who refer to it as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound or the Noble Sanctuary.
Besides the increased police presence around the Temple Mount, the IDF on Thursday announced it was sending additional troops to the West Bank in light of the increase in violence.
The military said the decision was made after an “ongoing situational assessment.” The IDF said it was deploying one extra battalion, which usually comprises a few hundred soldiers.
The decision came after the three attacks on Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Jerusalem and amid a general spike in tensions and violence, with a deadly clash in Jenin, riots elsewhere in the West Bank, and continuing launches of projectiles and explosive devices from Gaza.
This was the third round of reinforcements to be sent to the area since the release of President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict January 28. With the unveiling of the plan, the IDF immediately deployed additional troops to the Jordan Valley. As protests picked up on January 29, the military sent additional combat soldiers to the West Bank.