Israel Police will close Jerusalem's Temple Mount to Jewish visitors and tourists for the closing days of Ramadan in a bid to deescalate tensions around the site which has been a flashpoint for violence between Muslim faithful and Israeli forces.
The police stated that Commissioner Kobi Shabtai will hold discussions on Thursday on when to enact the ban, which is typically implemented during the last ten days of the Muslim holiday every year, during which many worshipers visit and stay the night at the holy compound.
On Friday, at least 152 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli riot police inside the mosque compound, the latest outbreak in an upsurge of violence that has raised fears of a slide back to wider conflict. The ongoing tensions strained Israeli relations with both the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
The Temple Movements — an umbrella term for various Jewish groups aspiring to overturn the status quo and reclaim Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount — claimed that authorities intended to close the site to Jews for 12 days and that in the past it was customary to close the shrine during the last three to four days of Ramadan.
The groups accused Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of capitulating to terror, although the practice was also customary during the time of his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, allegations also voiced by MKs Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich of the ultranationalist Religious Zionist Party.
"Closing the Temple Mount to the Jews, the holiest place for the people of Israel, is a victory for Hamas, for terrorism, for the riots of our enemies," Ben-Gvir said. "Bennett handed a reward to the enemy... This bizarre decision will cost us blood. Surrendering to the enemy only begets terrorism."
Smotrich did not mince any words either and called the decision "a security and political blunder that is tantamount to an admission to the Arab lie that the Jews are to blame for the current escalation."
Bennett's Yamina Party issued a statement in which it stated that the practice was enacted over the last decade by the Netanyahu administration as well and accused the erstwhile premier's Likud Party, as well as Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, of feigning outrage for political clout.
"The 'shock' that gripped the Likud and Smotrich is completely fake, and its motives are purely political. The decision on the Temple Mount will be made on the basis of security considerations and recommendations of the defense establishment like every year. Last year, Netanyahu closed the Temple Mount for 19 days under Hamas pressure," the statement read.