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Wary of Riots, Police Restrict Temple Mount Access

reposted from The Times of Israel
October 10, 2014

After Wednesday’s violence, security forces bar Muslims under age of 50 from accessing holy site for Friday prayers

Police placed restrictions Friday on the entry of Muslim worshipers to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the al-Aqsa Mosque compound for fear that riots would break out at the site following the conclusion of Friday prayers.

Muslim men above the age of 50, as well as Muslim women of all ages, were allowed to access the holy site, while worshipers under 50 were barred from attending services at the mosque, Israel Radio reported.

Hamas activists in the West Bank urged Palestinians to attempt to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque compound despite the limitations ordered by police, the report said.

The Temple Mount has seen frequent clashes between Israeli security forces and Muslim worshipers, due to a commonly perceived belief among the local Islamic community of Jewish encroachment on the contested site, which is holy to both religions.

On Wednesday, police and masked rioters clashed at the area, as tensions ramped up ahead of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Four policemen were wounded in the clashes, and 15 arrests were made, according to police. The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported dozens of Palestinians were injured in the clashes as well.

The fighting began when masked youths threw rocks, iron bars, cinder blocks and Molotov cocktails at police officers at the Mughrabi Gate, which was opened to non-Muslim visitors earlier in the day.

Police chased the demonstrators toward the al-Aqsa mosque, where they barricaded themselves inside and continued hurling objects in the direction of the police, said police spokeswoman Luba Samri.

Samri continued that the Palestinians had prepared for the confrontation ahead of time, and had set up obstacles at the holy site to slow down police. She said the Palestinians threw firebombs and rocks at police from within the mosque.

Police responded with “nonlethal riot-control means,” added Samri.

A radical Islamic cleric in Israel, Raed Salah, had called on Muslims to be present at the mosque Wednesday morning. About 30 young Palestinians slept at the mosque the previous night in preparation for the confrontation, according to Palestinian eyewitnesses. Last month saw violent clashes in and around the Temple Mount compound ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The clashes came amid an uptick in inter-ethnic violence in Jerusalem over the past several months, with incidents of East Jerusalem rioters hurling stones and Molotov cocktails and using fireworks as a weapon.

Police have cracked down on the protests, arresting suspected rioters in overnight sweeps and bolstering their presence in flash-point areas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered police to up patrols in East Jerusalem Tuesday, saying he would not allow riots to become the norm.

The Temple Mount, which is the site of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, is considered the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest site for Jews as it was the location of the two ancient Jewish temples.

In September, an addition to the Mughrabi Bridge — meant to boost the flow of non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount — was dismantled after it was deemed “illegal” by Netanyahu. The move, which was praised by Jordan and the Islamic authorities of the site, was seen by some as an attempt to decrease tensions.

 

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