JERUSALEM, Israel – Four Israeli police officers were injured in east Jerusalem neighborhoods following Friday prayers on the Temple Mount. Rioters threw rocks and Molotov Cocktails at security forces. By late afternnoon, Palestinian Authority sources reported that four Arabs were killed during riots in east Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Israel Police deployed some 3,000 officers in and around Jerusalem Friday morning and announced that the Temple Mount would be open for traditional Muslim prayers.
"Heightened security will take place in and around the Old City. Police and border police units [have been] mobilized in all areas and neighborhoods and will respond to any incidents or disturbances throughout the day," Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement.
"The Temple Mount is open for women of all ages and men over the age of 50," he continued. "Police are coordinating to enable Friday prayers to take place and at the same time secure measures taking place."
Meanwhile Palestinian factions in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza Strip called Thursday for Muslims to storm the site to protect the al-Aksa Mosque.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh used social media to get the message out, YNet reported.
"Tomorrow is an important turning point in the defense of the al-Aqsa Mosque and we will leave the victors," Haniyeh said. "The Israeli plans for al-Aqsa will not be carried out. This is a red line, you are stoking the fire. We are calling for a day of rage and general mobilization of the Palestinian society and the entire Arab nation in the framework of the campaign to defend Jerusalem and al-Aqsa."
The call didn't stop with Haniyeh. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum announced that Israelis were attacking the al-Aksa and preventing Muslims from praying there.
At the same time, imans (clerics) in east Jerusalem neighborhoods and in Judea, Samaria, and Hebron closed mosques to encourage tens of thousands to come storm the Temple Mount.
Netanyahu convened the Security Cabinet Thursday evening to prepare for the situation.
Metal Detectors Won't Be Removed
Following the lengthy meeting, the cabinet decided to buck international pressure and not to remove the metal detectors installed outside the Lion's Gate entrance to the Temple Mount. Ministers also affirmed their confidence in the police, authorizing them to take whatever steps necessary to maintain public order and security both on city streets and at the site.
Just like visitors to the Western Wall – and the Vatican for that matter – anyone wishing to enter the Temple Mount will be required to pass through the scanners. (Non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount, who must enter through a separate gate, have been subjected to rigorous security checks and metal detectors for years.)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat weighed in on the decision, calling it "courageous."
"The decision of Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy to place metal detectors on the Temple Mount is a courageous decision because at this time last week two policemen were murdered at the site. This decision is a responsible one that will help to ensure that such incidents do not repeat themselves," the mayor said. "This is not a political matter; it is a professional security issue. No one is challenging the status quo on the Temple Mount."
While police dealt with sporadic rioting during the week – as well as attempted terror attacks in several locations, hundreds of Muslims entered the site to pray, passing uneventfully through the newly installed metal detectors.
The terror attack, which took place exactly one week ago at 7:00 a.m. Friday, prompted the upgraded security measures. Two Israeli officers were shot dead in that attack and a third injured.
Netanyahu closed the site temporarily for purposes of investigation, reopening it Sunday morning. The weapons used in the attack had been brought into the mosque the night before, reportedly aided by officials with the Wakf, the Isalmic Trust responsible for the day-to-day administration of the site.
— Jerusalem Dateline (@JlemDateline) July 21, 2017
Following the closure, the Wakf cried foul, claiming Israel was endangering the al-Aksa mosque, a ploy that's been used repeatedly to incite violence.
In response to a White House press release posted midweek, Netanyahu issued a statement he's repeated many times over the years.
"Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and the freedom of access to the holy sites. Israel is committed to protecting the safety of all worshipers and visitors to the Temple Mount," the statement read.
The midweek White House press release referred to the site by its Jewish and Muslim names.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 19, 2017
Statement from the Press Secretary on Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif
The United States is very concerned about tensions surrounding the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif, a site holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and calls upon the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to make a good faith effort to reduce tensions and to find a solution that assures public safety and the security of the site and maintains the status quo. The United States will continue to closely monitor the developments.
Last October, UNESCO passed a resolution declaring the Temple Mount and Western Wall below it Islamic, not Jewish sites, defying both biblical and historical facts.