Following intelligence information received by Jerusalem police on plans by Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount to disrupt the public order at the end of their prayers, entrance to the holy site was limited to Muslim visitors.
Further, only Muslim visitors with blue teudot zehut (identification cards), held by Israeli citizens and residents, are to be allowed in.
Police are deployed around the Temple Mount and in alleys and entrances around the Old City against expected attempts to disrupt the public order.
The Temple Mount was closed to visitors by police on Thursday following rioting by Muslims in the area for “Prisoners Day,” in which thousands of Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza demanded the release of Israeli-held terrorists. Those protests turned violent in Hevron, where police and soldiers were attacked with rocks.
Six Arab youths in Jerusalem were arrested on Thursday, over suspicion of being involved in rioting on Wednesday at the Temple Mount, when firecrackers and rocks were hurled at police.
Following the rioting on Wednesday, Dov Kalmanovitz, the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, demanded that police close the Temple Mount to Arab visitors for the rest of the day.
However, police instead closed the holiest site in Judaism to Jews for Wednesday and Thursday, sparking outrage among government ministers. MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) argued that the Israeli government had “abandoned the Temple Mount to the Hamas regime.”
The most recent spate of clashes on the Temple Mount started on Monday morning before Passover, when dozens of Hamas activists took over the holy site while waving Hamas flags and barring Jewish visitors from entering.
Police have “lost control of the Temple Mount,” Temple activists charged Monday morning, on the eve of Pesach.
Dozens of Hamas men have taken over the Mount, waving Hamas flags, and are “not allowing Jews and tourists into the Mount,” said the activists.
“Hundreds of Jews who came to the Temple Mount for Pesach were astonished to find a police representative standing at the entrance gate and announcing that the Mount had been closed off to Jews after Hamas had taken over the Mount and threatened violence against any Jews who enter,” the Temple organizations reported in a news communique.
The Temple organizations called for the police commissioner to resign, following his failures on the Temple Mount.
“Time after time, the police abandon the Mount to hostile hands – especially on Jewish holidays,” they charged. “Then the same commanders come to the Knesset and the Interior Committee, and lie that the Mount was open.”
The latest incident comes just one day after Hamas-linked Islamists rioted on the Temple Mount, preventing Jewish visitors from ascending Judaism’s holiest site.
In response, police banned Jews from the site – prompting Temple Mount activists to accuse authorities of essentially collaborating with Muslim extremists to prevent Jews from visiting the Mount. The Temple activists say that about 20 Hamas men stayed in the compound overnight and that the police have allowed them to do so.
Despite being the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount is administered by the Islamic Waqf foundation, and Jewish visits are subject to strict restrictions including a blanket ban on prayers or other forms of worship, under pain of arrest.
Jewish groups have long condemned the discrimination as a surrender to Muslim extremism; a new bill proposed by the Jewish Home party is currently being debated to grant equal prayer rights to Jews and Muslims on the Mount.
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