Police gird for Temple Mount violence Friday as unrest persists
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Police gird for Temple Mount violence Friday as unrest persists

Men under 40 will be barred from compound; PM tells UN’s Ban Palestinian rioters aim to break status quo; rocks, firebombs thrown and bus set on fire Thursday night

Palestinian Muslim women from the Muoribatat group shout slogans and hold the Koran during a protest against police in Jerusalem's Old City on September 17, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Palestinian Muslim women from the Muoribatat group shout slogans and hold the Koran during a protest against police in Jerusalem's Old City on September 17, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Police officials said they would limit Muslim access to the Temple Mount Friday morning as the capital geared up for possible violence after a week that saw several heavy clashes atop the holy site.

Police said they would prohibit the entry of men under 40 to the compound after receiving intelligence reports indicating “young Arabs” planned to disrupt the peace during Muslim Friday prayers at the site, a spokesperson said.

Women at all ages will be allowed on the esplanade, known as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.

The move comes as unrest persists in some parts of the capital, touched off by days of clashes between Israeli forces and Muslim protesters at the Temple Mount.

Police have beefed up their presence across the city, including bolstering positions in the Old City and near the Temple Mount, in a bid to quell the protests.

The rock throwing, which turned deadly Sunday night when an Israeli motorist was hit with rocks thrown from a Palestinian neighborhood and crashed his car in a southern neighborhood of the city, has vexed officials, and political leaders have vowed to crack down on stonings and other “popular” attacks via harsher punishments and allowing increased use of force, including live fire.

Several rock and firebomb attacks were reported in parts of Jerusalem Thursday evening. A bus driver was lightly wounded when rocks were thrown at his bus near the Hizmeh checkpoint. Elsewhere, near Mount Scopus, Palestinians coming from the village of Isawiyah threw Molotov cocktails at a guard post.

Rocks were also hurled at the light rail near the Shuafat neighborhood, causing damage but no casualties.

A bus also caught fire near the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, in a suspected Molotov cocktail attack. The driver said he left the bus after being hit by rocks and returned to find the vehicle alight. No injures were reported in that incident.

Earlier Thursday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and told him that Israel was acting against the violence on the Temple Mount.

Netanyahu added that Israel was strictly maintaining the status quo, which prohibits Jewish prayer at the sensitive site, while the Palestinian incitement was trying to upset the status quo.

Netanyahu’s conversation with Ban came after the government reiterated to the Jordanian government – which is the legal custodian of the Temple Mount – that it had no plans to change the conditions on the mountain.

Palestinian reports, some coming from Hamas officials, that Israel was trying to advance a division of the Temple Mount’s territory, were dismissed by the government as complete fabrications.

King Abdullah earlier warned that Jordan would need to act to prevent what he called Israeli “provocations” on the Temple Mount, threatening to cut diplomatic ties. Other Muslim leaders also condemned Israeli actions on the Temple Mount, including Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was accused of fanning the flames by unnamed Israeli officials, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

Police preparations for violence during Friday prayers comes after Thursday and Wednesday offered some respite from three consecutive days of violence near the al Aqsa Mosque from Sunday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and until Tuesday when the holiday ended.

The violence began Sunday when police, acting on a tip from the Shin Bet security service, raided the mount and found pipe bombs and other improvised weapons, apparently prepared in advance for an organized riot.

Lat Sunday night, Alexander Levlovitz, 64, was killed when a rock thrown at his car in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood caused him to lose control of his car and crash.

Acting Police Commissioner Bentzi Sau said Tuesday that police actions on the Temple Mount in the previous days were based on valid intelligence reports, and vowed to bring violent protesters to justice.

“Over the past three days, we have seen attempts by a number of individuals who are trying to aggravate and exacerbate the security situation in Jerusalem, and destabilize the security and peaceful coexistence in the city,” he said.

Sau ordered an open-ended reinforcement of Israel’s security presence in the capital until calm was restored. Hundreds of additional officers are being deployed, with the goal of thwarting more violence and arresting those responsible for attacks in recent days.

Sau said there’d been “an upsurge” in attacks, including stone-throwing and petrol-bomb throwing at police.

“We are determined to prevent disturbances and will bring those who violate the calm or harm police officers of civilians to justice,” he said.

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