IDF readies 5 battalions in case Temple Mount clashes spread to West Bank
Fearing violent clashes, Israeli security services prepare for large numbers of Israeli Arabs from east Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel who are expected to make their way to the capital to join Friday prayers outside the Temple Mount.
The IDF said Thursday five battalions have been put on standby in the West Bank in light of the high tensions on the Temple Mount.
After three Israeli Arabs came out of the Temple Mount complex armed and opened fire at an Israeli police force, killing two of the officers, Israel added metal detectors and security cameras at the entrance gates to the holy site to prevent the smuggling of more weapons inside.
The added security was met with strong objection from the Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, other Arab nations and the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. They claim the move constitutes a violation of the status quo, according to which Israel controls access to the compound, while Jordan presides over its daily management.
The IDF has been reluctant to send reinforcement troops to the West Bank since the attack on Friday. The decision to put thousands of soldiers on standby was eventually made in light of concerns the clashes in the Temple Mount area would spread to the West Bank.
The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf is expecting large numbers of Israeli Arabs to make their way to the Temple Mount from across the country to participate in mass Friday prayers.
In an effort to stop the flood, however, Israel is considering preventing Israelis Arabs from the Galilee and the Negev from participating in the prayers, but many have already stated such measures will not succeed and pledged to go to the Temple Mount at any price. Additionally, many have stated their intention to travel to Jerusalem before Friday.
In a move apparently intended to whip up further hysteria at the compound and possibly instigate more violence, the Waqf announced Wednesday that all mosques in Jerusalem would be closed on Friday, thereby forcing thousands of Muslims from east Jerusalem to join the protests.
Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Hamas Islamist movement that rules Gaza, called on Palestinians to confront Israeli troops along the enclave's border on Friday in protest at the Israeli measure.
The White House said overnight Wednesday it was “very concerned” over the escalation of violence at the Temple Mount. The Trump administration urged Israel and Jordan to work together to mollify the tensions and restore calm to the site, which has witnessed the eruption of daily clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli security forces. The US, it said, would “continue to closely monitor the developments.”
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already signalled Israel would not be removing the detectors in the meantime, the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported efforts are being made between the US and Arab states to bring around a speedy resolution to the escalating crisis
According to Hatem Abdul Kader, Fatah’s former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Israel was given 24 hours to remove the metal detectors, an ultimatum that would expire on Thursday evening.
According to various officials, other measures are being considered as a replacement for the metal detectors, which would include selective security checks upon entrance to the compound according to criteria such as age groups and gender.
Another option currently being weighed is that the metal detectors remain in place but are operated by international forces, either exclusively or with Israeli personnel. Israel is also said to be willing to remove the metal detectors entirely on condition that cameras are installed inside the compound—a measure that was supposed to be implemented months ago following an agreement between Israel and Jordan but which was ultimately thrown out by the Waqf.