Under high police alert following recent turmoil at Temple Mount, the Priestly Blessing prayers concluded with relative calm Monday morning, with some 30,000 worshipers who attended the prayers at the Western Wall.
Despite the calm spirits, Jerusalem District Police Commander Aharon Franco spoke to the media at a nearby police post, commenting on Yom Kippur and Sunday's rioting in Temple Mount: "There is ungratefulness on behalf of the Arabs. After the police allowed many Muslim worshipers to prey at Temple Mount during Ramadan, they become unruly during the High Holidays."
The Police Chief, Commissioner Dudi Cohen promised Monday morning to take immediate steps against the man they believe is responsible for instigating the rioting, Sheikh Raed Salah.
Jerusalem security forces on high alert (Photo: Guy Assayag)
Salah, Head of the Northern Islamic Movement, slammed on Friday Netanyahu for resuming construction work around the holy sites, calling him "a political madman, who might burn everything".
Salah, who is currently staying at the east Jerusalem neighborhood Wadi Joz along with hundreds of his supporters, began marching from Temple Mount back to Wadi Joz after police forces refused them entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque premise.
Salah continued to call worshipers to come to Temple Mount, saying: "With blood and fire we will liberate al-Aqsa". According to sources in the Islamic Movement, dozens of worshipers still remain inside the mosque since Sunday.
30,000 attend prayers at Western Wall (Photo: Guy Assayag)
40 arrested since Yom Kippur
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch also arrived at the Temple Mount vicinity Monday morning and met with the police chief and the district commander for an estimate of the situation. According to Commissioner Cohen "Salah has seven police files against him. We are examining the statements he made and will take steps in the next few days."
"We recognize sources that try instigate and incite the crowds, and are doing everything we can to maintian the order. The police will take all steps necessary against the Islamic Movement," said Aharonovitch.
Commander Franco rejected Salah's accusations, in which he says Israeli is compromising the status quo around the holy sites, saying "many things written in newspapers don't reflect reality, many of them are lies. The status quo will be kept strictly, including in the Temple Mount. Unfortunately people create an atmosphere of war in order to turn the place into a battlefield. We will not allow that to happen."
Monday morning two incidents of stone hurling were reported in Jerusalem. The District commander said that in Ras al-Amud Border Guards detained ten veiled Perpetrators who hurled stones at haredi worshipers who were on their way to the Western Wall. According to Franco, some 40 suspects have been arrested since Yom Kippur eve.
2 years in prison for membership in terror organizationIn May 2003, Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested along with other Northern Islamic Movement officials in suspicions that they transferred funds to Hamas members in Israel and abroad under the guise of humanitarian aid.
Salah and four others were accused of membership in a terror organization, disclosing sensitive information to the enemy and having contact with a foreign agent. After reaching a plea bargain, the Sheikh was released — a little over 2 years following his arrest.
In 2007 Salah was arrested again, after protesting in Jerusalem while holding PLO and Syrian flags. He was released shortly after, and the court rejected police request to remove him from Jerusalem, yet determined that the Sheikh cannot be seen in public places with more than eight people.
Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to the report