Jerusalem remained tense on Friday, as the Temple Mount reopened to visitors and worshippers after being closed the day before in response to Wednesday’s shooting of prominent right-wing activist Yehuda Glick.
More than 1,000 Israeli police officers were deployed around the Old City’s streets and the ancient gates that lead to the Al-Aqsa Mosque at the holy site known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims and Temple Mount to Jews. Police were also using undercover anti-riot units and observation balloons hovering in the sky to monitor the situation.
More than 4,000 people attended midday prayers on Friday, police said. There were a few isolated disturbances, including firecrackers being set off and an attempt by a group of young Palestinian men to break through the police cordon, but no serious violence.
Following prayers, several youths began hurling stones at police and Border Police officers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz, but they were dispersed using crowd control methods.
Locals said it was the first time all access to Al-Aqsa had been banned since the second intifada erupted in 2000. But Jordanian authorities, who are responsible for administering the site, said it was the first full closure of the compound since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Jerusalem Police commander Moshe Edri on Thursday decided to reopen the site, but restrict Friday prayers to Muslim men over the age of 50 and women.
Protest marches were expected to take place throughout the West Bank after prayers on Friday, Fatah sources told Haaretz. The atmosphere across the Green Line was reportedly tense and angry, they said, and clashes were possible if the marchers approached security positions or roadblocks.
The Fatah chapter in Jerusalem called for Friday to be a day of rage, following the shooting death of Muataz Hijazi, 32, the suspected assailant of Glick. Police said that they shot Hijazi after he opened fire on police when they arrived at his home to arrest him.
Hijazi’s funeral, attended by hundreds, was held late Thursday without incident. His family is concerned that the state may seek to demolish their home. Their lawyer asked the attorney general to be notified of such plans so they can prepare an appeal.
Earlier Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded strongly to the decision to close the Temple Mount that day, describing it as a “declaration of war” on the Palestinian people.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch visited the Old City on Friday and expressed hope that the violence of recent weeks would not trigger a third intifada.
Aharonovitch defended the decision to close the Temple Mount to visitors and worshippers Thursday, saying it was done to prevent disturbances. “I will not allow the Temple Mount to be harmed,” he told Army Radio, “and I will not change the status quo.”
Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino also visited the area Friday to assess the security situation, and said that police were deployed and prepared to maintain the peace in conflict zones around Jerusalem. “This is a national mission and we are cooperating fully with all law enforcement groups,” he said.
He instructed commanding officers to use dialogue to prevent incitement, but to act forcefully against extremists working to fan the flames between Arabs and Jews in the city.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday he was worried about the escalation of tensions across Jerusalem. Kerry condemned the shooting of Glick, a U.S. citizen, at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, saying the State Department was seeking more information from the authorities.
Glick, a religious activist, was shot and wounded late on Wednesday. He has campaigned for Jews to be allowed to pray at the Temple Mount.
“It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount – in word and in practice,” Kerry said in a statement.
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