Police: MKs, ministers banned from Temple Mount on Passover
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Police: MKs, ministers banned from Temple Mount on Passover

Spokesman says prohibition ‘for security reasons’ only applies to lawmakers; extra forces deployed to capital for holiday

Minister Uri Ariel on the Temple Mount on March 16, 2014 (photo credit: Uri Ariel's spokesman's office)
Minister Uri Ariel on the Temple Mount on March 16, 2014 (photo credit: Uri Ariel's spokesman's office)

Knesset members and ministers are banned from entering the flashpoint Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem “for security reasons” during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins on Friday night, police confirmed.

The compound is holy to both Jews and Muslims, and has been the site of violent protests from Palestinians, who charge that Israel is planning to change the fragile status quo there. Israel denies the allegations.

“The ban on ministers and MKs was decided for security reasons” during the festival, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, without giving further details.

“However, the visits of tourists and Jewish visitors can continue normally,” he said.

Under the current arrangement, Jews are allowed to visit the compound but not pray.

Rosenfeld added that police reinforcements had boosted their presence in Jerusalem during the festival, with a total of 3,500 police on patrol. He declined to say how many of these forces were new.

“These forces are patrolling in all public places, bus stations, shopping malls, tram stations,” he said.

During Passover tens of thousands of Jews flock to the Old City of Jerusalem.

Jewish worshipers cover themselves with prayer shawls during the Passover priestly blessing ceremony as they pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, April 17, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Jewish worshipers cover themselves with prayer shawls during the Passover priestly blessing ceremony as they pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 17, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Last year, more than 50,000 Jewish worshipers attended the Birkat Kohanim (priestly blessing) ceremony at the Western Wall, which will be held on Sunday this year.

Israel has also closed off all crossing points from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for Friday and Saturday, fearing a wave of violence during the start of the week-long holiday. Those fears were exacerbated Monday, when a Palestinian suicide bomber set off a bomb on a bus in Jerusalem, wounding 20 people. The bomber, a 19-year-old Hamas terrorist from the Bethlehem area, died from his wounds in the attack.

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