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Police Restrict Muslim Prayers on Mount

reprinted from The Jerusalem Post
Apr. 7, 2005


Citing intelligence warnings over possible violence, Jerusalem police announced Thursday that they were imposing restrictions on Muslim entry to the Temple Mount on Friday.

The limitations, barring all Arab men under the age of 40 from entering the site, come as a group of ultra-nationalist Jews plan to hold a rally at the site on Sunday.

On Wednesday, police announced that the Temple Mount would be closed to non-Muslim visitors that day. But organizers of the event said they were going ahead with plans for the rally, setting the stage for a massive showdown with police.

Jerusalem Police chief Ilan Franco had announced that he was barring the ultra-nationalist rally to the Temple Mount following multiple intelligence warnings that such an event could prompt Palestinian violence.

Palestinian officials have warned that the Jewish nationalist rally could lead to a renewal of violence. The three major Palestinian terrorist organizations - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Aksa Martyrs Brigade - have each announced that they would renew attacks if the event goes ahead as planned.

The Islamic Movement in Israel called off plans for a mass pilgrimage to the Aksa Mosque to counter the Jewish rally following Wednesday's decision to close the Temple Mount to non-Muslims.

Umm el-Fahm Mayor Sheikh Hashem Abed al-Rahman praised the decision by Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and police in the capital.

"This was a very wise move that has gone a long way to reduce tension," Rahman, who is also spokesman for the Islamic Movement, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

"As far as we are concerned now, Friday and Sunday will be normal days, although there might be a few more people, including women and children, at the mosque on Sunday," he said.

Rahman maintained that the Islamic Movement was a legitimate and law-abiding organization and that there was no intention to break the law.

Hundreds of visitors have toured the holy site without incident since it was reopened to non-Muslims a year-and-a-half ago. But over the last six months, security officials have repeatedly warned of the possibility that Jewish extremists would attack the site as a way of sabotaging the Gaza pullout.

Police said that they would be on heightened alert outside the Temple Mount starting Friday.



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