As Israel imposes age restrictions on entrance to Temple Mount and Old City, thousands of police deployed throughout the area and outside the compound stand guard in view of thousands of Muslims participating in Friday prayer services ahead of anticipated mass unrest.
Ynet writers|Published: 28.07.17 , 14:03
Thousands of Muslim worshipers assembled from across the country in Jerusalem for Friday prayers as huge Israeli security forces took up positions throughout the Old City in anticipation of yet another day of violent clashes.
The worshipers stood in prayer during the early afternoon ahead of the protests against Israel’s decision to restrict entrance to the Old City and Temple Mount to men over 50 years old and women only.
Jerusalem Police Commander Yoram Halevi announced the restrictions
Friday morning that he said had been put in place in an attempt to prevent yet more riots by the worshipers that have plagued the area in recent days.
Despite the relative calm by mid afternoon, minor skirmishes were recorded asMuslim rioters began throwing rocks at police officers in the Wadi al-Joz neighborhood of Jerusalem near the Lions’ Gate, prompting the police to respond by firing stun grenades into the hostile crowds.
Rocks were also thrown at security forces in the West Bank near Qalqilya, in Bethlehem and Nablus by hundreds of Palestinians. Two Palestinians were lightly wounded as forces opened fire with rubber bullets.
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
One of the worshipers claimed that no one was looking for a showdown with the police, but decried the meticulous checks being conducted upon entry to the compound. "The police forces are always checking us and cursing us," he complained.
Another resident from Umm al-Fahm complained that the police were not allowing the worshipers to pray. “They’re always shouting at is and being violent toward us. That’s what’s causing the anger,” he claimed. “The police don’t need to be in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and the Dome of the Rock. This kind of conduct can change the atmosphere. Let us pray without restrictions and without the police presence.”
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
“If the police think that their presence at Al-Aqsa can calm the mood they are mistaken. To avoid a clash it’s better for them to stay outside the mosque. The police will be responsible for any clash and the difficult consequences,” he continued.
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
After the prayer services, Muslim religious leaders in Jerusalem are expected to convene to discuss the most recent developments regarding Al-Aqsa mosque.
Meanwhile, dozens of blocks were erected on all the main routes from Arab villages leading to the mosque. Nevertheless, several people did manage to circumvent the blocks by passing through a cemetery located nearby and came within 200 meters from the Lions’ Gate—a flashpoint of terror attacks and the main entrance for Muslims to the Temple Mount.
Hassan Shaalan, Yael Friedson, Yoav Zitun, Kobi Nachshoni and Liad Osmo contributed to this report.