Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Tuesday railed at violent protesters on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for not allowing the police to do their job of “protecting the status quo,” a situation that prompted authorities to bar non-Muslims from the contested site.
Following numerous incidents of rock throwing by Palestinians, police on Tuesday announced that the Mount, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, would be closed to Jewish visitors and tourists for three days and that extra forces would be deployed to prevent rioting. In response to the stone-throwing, police entered the compound to prevent further incidents. Seventeen people were arrested Tuesday, police said, adding to the five detained the previous day.
Barkat said in a statement that the police should be “allowed to do their job and to continue protecting the status quo on the Temple Mount.”
Under agreements dating back to 1967, the Jordan-based Waqf administers the Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but must allow visitors of all faiths to enter the site.
The Jerusalem mayor offered a veiled criticism of the police decision to restrict the site to some visitors.
“We must not make decisions under pressure from violent disturbances. Only consistent and determined practice in protecting the status quo will ensure a long-term reduction in violent incidents and bring quiet to Jerusalem,” Barkat said.
Palestinians at the site threw rocks at Israeli police at the site Tuesday morning. One of the rocks a 73-year-old Jewish woman in the Western Wall plaza, which is overlooked by the Mount. She suffered minor injuries and received medical treatment at the scene.
“After assessing the situation this morning, the Jerusalem District Police decided that the Temple Mount will be closed today to visitors,” Jerusalem District Police spokesperson Luba Samri said in a statement.
“Likewise, it was decided that the mount will be closed to visitors also on Wednesday and Thursday. Police are ready with backup forces to maintain the quiet on the mount and to prevent rioting. Any disruption will be dealt with firmly.”
Muslim worshipers will continue to have access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In Judaism, it is the holiest site and is venerated as the location of the First and Second Temples.
“The police are continuing ongoing dialogue with the local leadership and the Waqf, and demanding that they prevent any disruption in arrangements on the mount and preserve the peace,” Samri said.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.