Police deployment in Jerusalem out of concerns for riots in the Old City reached its peak Monday afternoon amid tensions on the backdrop of the rededication of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter.
More than 3,000 police and Border Guard officers are deployed in Jerusalem, mainly near the Temple Mount and in east Jerusalem neighborhoods. "There is no specific alert for riots this evening," said a source in the police. "The police are prepared for any possible scenario. Only 250 Muslim worshippers attended services on the Temple Mount."
The Islamic Movement continued sending dozens of buses to Jerusalem on Monday. The bus organizers claimed that police detained a few of the buses, and some were even turned back. The police, on the other hand, said that only one passenger bus was asked to return.
A senior police source said the "revolving door" policy by which they are operating stipulates that "any vehicle, mainly buses, on which sources that will likely act as an inflammatory source on the Temple Mount will be forced to turn back in its tracks."
The Islamic Movement's transport operations started on Saturday, and are being run by the al-Bayarq bus company belonging to the al-Aqsa Foundation, which is linked with the northern branch of the Islamic Movement. The operations organizers told Ynet that dozens of buses transported believers from the Galilee, the Triangle, the Negev, and Jerusalem.
High deployment. Police in east Jerusalem (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
The organizers also said that the police, who are deployed with heavy reinforcements, set up roadblocks along the Bakaa road and along Route 6. "It won't help. We believe that the al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the holiest sites to Islam, and there is no reason we shouldn't keep visiting it," said Islamic Movement spokesman, Attorney Zahi Nujidat.
"We call upon people to visit the al-Aqsa Mosque on every day of the year – today, yesterday, and tomorrow, too," said Nujidat, who denied that there was a call for worshippers to go to Jerusalem today in particular.
"We helped and we will help a few people who wanted to reach the mosque," he clarified.
MK Talab El-Sana, a Bedouin resident of the Negev, told Ynet there has never been such a high level of responsiveness on the part of Bedouins to go to the al-Aqsa Mosque.
"The buildup of a number of elements that took things too far, starting with adding Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs to the list of heritage sites, the evacuation of Palestinians and entrance of settlers to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, settlement expansion and the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem which is slated to be rededicated – all these and more, bolster the feeling that there is a real and concrete threat to the existence of the al-Aqsa Mosque. This is why seculars are also joining the fight, because al-Aqsa is not just a religious symbol, but also a national symbol," he said.
Earlier, President Shimon Peres tried to send a calming message ahead of the Hurva Synagogue's rededication. "Israel will respect every holy site and place of worship. What is holy to the Muslims will be holy to us; what is holy to Christians will be holy to us. And of course, vice versa," the president told his Brazilian counterpart Luis Lula da Silva, who is currently in Israel.
Thousands of police officer were deployed throughout Jerusalem since Monday morning, following declarations made by senior Palestinian leaders calling to "ignite the area" ahead of the rededication ceremony.
Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to this report