Thousands of police officers will be deployed around the Temple Mount, East Jerusalem, Old City alleys and nearby areas starting early today, the first Friday of Ramadan, amid fears of possible disturbances after prayers.
Officials at the Public Security Ministry said yesterday that the present calm in the city was deceptive and that there could be trouble, due to tensions between Israeli Arabs and the authorities.
Muslims around the world began the annual month-long fast of Ramadan on Wednesday, during which they refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations from sunrise to sundown. The festival of Id al-Fitr marks the end of this holiday, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. This year Id al-Fitr falls on Thursday, September 9.
Ministry officials said there are indications of unusually high tension in the Arab community. Among other reasons, according to the officials, the present tensions stem from the police support of a former officer convicted of shooting to death an alleged Arab car thief; the authorities' increased demolition of homes in Arab neighborhoods; and the imprisonment of Sheikh Raed Salah, who heads the Islamic Movement's northern branch in Israel.
Ramadan in Jerusalem
Police will restrict the entrance of Palestinian worshippers to the prayer session at the Temple Mount compound today.
Men aged 45-50 will be allowed in only with a special permit; men over 50 will be able to enter freely. Women from the West Bank aged 30-45 will only be allowed to join the prayers with a special permit; women over 45 will be able to enter freely, as will worshippers with Israeli (blue ) identity cards.
Dozens of traffic police will be posted along the roads leading to East Jerusalem to direct the hundreds of buses and private vehicles transporting worshippers to parking lots.
The Jerusalem police force, which will be reinforced by thousands of policemen from other districts, will set up posts near the Western Wall and in East Jerusalem, under the command of Jerusalem District Police Chief Aharon Franco.
"The policemen will prevent any attempt made to disrupt order and security," the Jerusalem police said in a statement yesterday.
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