Israel on High Alert for Jerusalem Confrontations Following Friday Prayer

Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and Gaza prepare to take to the streets in protest, but no extra restrictions on access to Al Aqsa Mosque

Jack Khoury
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TOPSHOT - Israeli forces keep watch as and Palestinian protestors throws stones and shout slogans near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 7, 2017.
US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital sparked a Palestinian general strike and a call for a new intifada as fears grew of fresh bloodshed in the region. /
Israeli forces keep watch as and Palestinian protestors throws stones and shout slogans near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 7, 2017.Credit: AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX
Jack Khoury

Israel security forces are preparing for possible confrontations in multiple locations Friday afternoon as Palestinians all across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem plan to carry out marches and rallies slated to begin in the afternoon after Friday prayers in protest of U.S. President Donald Trump's landmark declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. 

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Tens of thousands of worshipers entered the Old City's Temple Mount for afternoon prayers on Friday. It is thought likely that after prayers confrontations in and around the Old City will erupt between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. Security forces in the area have been increased in anticipation. 

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops following a protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the Jewish settlement of Beit ElCredit: AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI

Israel police set no extra restrictions on access for worshippers at the flashpoint Al Aqsa Mosque.

The flashpoint garnering the largest amount of attention is Damascus Gate, the commercial center of East Jerusalem. 

While in the West Bank the IDF has tried to show restraint and contain the riots, police are expected to respond more severely to rioting in East Jerusalem.

Riots expected at "regular" sites of friction between Israeli troops and Palestinians include the Judea and Samaria Junction north of Jerusalem where a large number of Palestinians are expected to protest. 

Lebanese and Palestinian students chant slogans as they take part in protest in Lebanon on December 7, 2017.Credit: Mohammed Zaatari/AP

The IDF has also reinforced its troops along Israel's border with Gaza, including preparations for sniper fire and missiles fired from Gaza into Israel. 

Palestinians declared earlier this week that they are planning "three days of rage" and over 20 Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli soldiers on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Israeli army attacked positions inside the Gaza Strip in retaliation to rocket fire at Israel from the Strip earlier in the day. 

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Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, have called on people to set out on marches around checkpoints and known flashpoints with Israeli security forces.

Hamas went even further, calling on the Palestinian people to embark on a new intifada effective immediately, coinciding with the thirtieth anniversary of the First Intifada, which broke out in 1987. Hamas' politburo Ismail Haniyeh's comments were backed by Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah who on Thursday also stated it was time for a new uprising.

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While the Palestinian Authority is unlikely to try to prevent the demonstrations, it is going to remain committed to preventing chaos and an exacerbation of tensions that could result in an armed conflict.

Assessments indicate that the PA is going to try to encourage Palestinians to adopt the protest model that was characteristic of the past summer's crisis, when Israel placed metal detectors at the entrance to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, which is also home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, sparking protests.

Israel had ultimately decided to remove the new security measures after immense protest and pressure from both Palestinians in the area and from neighboring countries, a decision the PA credits to the protests it had inspired and encouraged at the time.

Over in the Gaza Strip, protests are also being planned, and demonstrators are expected to try to approach the security barrier along the border, which is likely to lead to a confrontation with Israeli security forces stationed in the area.

On Wednesday, Trump said in a televised address that he recognized Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. He also said that the U.S. would eventually move its embassy there, a move that is expected to only begin happening over the next years. In the meantime, Trump has signed on the waiver that now postpones the move by at least another six months. 

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