Weaponizing Prayer: The Battle for Temple Mount
Muslim Faithful Told to Pray Inside Jerusalem Shrine
Muslim leaders told the faithful to return to pray inside a major Jerusalem holy site on Thursday after Israel removed security devices it installed outside entrances to the shrine following the murder of two Israeli policemen by Palestinians.
Thousands of Palestinians had been praying in the streets outside the al-Aqsa Mosque in protest against the security measures since the crisis began.
Islamic leaders declared in a statement:
After extensive discussion and after achieving this victory in this round we call on our people in Jerusalem and inside (Israel) and anyone who can access the al-Aqsa Mosque to enter … en masse.
The head of the Supreme Islamic Committee, Ikrema Sabri, said the first prayers would be held there Thursday afternoon.
Palestinians danced, chanted “God is Great” and set off fireworks after some security devices were removed early Thursday morning. The metal detectors had been dismantled earlier this week.
Rabbis Urge Jews to Visit Temple Mount
Several prominent Israeli rabbis issued a statement on Thursday encouraging Jews to visit the Temple Mount, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The site is administered by an Islamic Wakf, which refuses to allow non-Muslims to pray in any way at the holy place, bow, dance, or make any other expression of attachment and devotion at the site, and anyone caught doing so is arrested and removed.
Visiting hours for non-Muslims are also extremely restricted, while Jewish visitors are frequently subjected to intense harassment from Muslims at the site.
Islamic Terrorist Attack at the Shrine
Israel installed the new security measures earlier this month after Palestinian terrorists shot and killed two police officers from within the site.
It said the security measures were necessary to prevent more attacks and are standard procedure to ensure safety at sites around the world. Palestinians claimed Israel was trying to expand its control over the site.
The issue sparked some of the worst street clashes in years and threatened to draw Israel into conflict with other Arab and Muslim nations.
Temple Mount: Powder Keg
Israel removed the devices under intense pressure and said it would install sophisticated security cameras instead.
Not satisfied, Palestinian politicians and Muslim clerics demanded that Israel restore the situation at the shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City to pre July 14 attack conditions.
The fate of the site is an emotional issue at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Even the smallest perceived change to delicate arrangements pertaining to the site sparks tensions.
Holy Site for Jews and Muslims
Jews revere the hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City as the Temple Mount, site of the two Jewish biblical-period temples. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the nearby Western Wall, a remnant of one of the temples, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.
Muslims believe the site, Haram al-Sharif, or the noble Sanctuary, marks the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is Islam’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
The latest development could put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a tough spot as he tries to tamp out a wave of unrest that has triggered international pressure while not appearing to his hard-line base as capitulating.
Palestinian Violence Escalating
Six Die in One Day in Latest Israeli-Palestinian Violence
Israeli officials say three Israelis died and one more was wounded when a Palestinian broke into a home in a West Bank settlement and stabbed its residents while they were eating dinner, according to VOA.
Two of the victims died Friday soon after the attack in the area known as Neve Tsuf, north of Ramallah. Another victim died later in the day.
The assailant was shot by Israeli police and is hospitalized in Israel. He has been identified as 20-year-old Omar al-Abed. His brother also has been arrested.
Elsewhere Friday, three Palestinians died when clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians turned violent.
Tensions have been rising for days after Israel installed metal detectors at a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews, after two Israeli police officers were killed there by Arab gunmen.
On Friday, Israel barred Muslim men under the age of 50 from entering the contested Jerusalem holy place for noon prayers
Officials said the clashes at the Old City shrine had been expected.
Renewed Clashes Erupt at Disputed Jerusalem Holy Place
July 27, fresh violence has erupted as Palestinians clashed with Israeli police at the mosque of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem’s Old City, on the site Jews call the Temple Mount, reported VOA.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, at least 100 Palestinian rioters were injured when they attacked Israeli police, including some who were hit by rubber bullets or beaten. Several of those injured suffered broken bones, the group said.
The clashes arose after Muslim leaders in Jerusalem gave permission for their worshippers to re-enter the site, which they had been boycotting over the increased security measures.
Israel set up metal detectors, security cameras and railings at the compound after Arab gunmen killed two Israeli policemen there, but the move sparked Palestinian riots. Palestinians described the measures as humiliating to Muslims, and they accused Israel of trying to seize control of the third-holiest place in Islam. They refused to enter the mosque through Israeli security and held tense prayer protests on the streets.
Earlier on Thursday, it appeared that the Israeli concessions would help restore calm.
Mohammed Hussein, the mufti or Muslim spiritual leader of Jerusalem, said Israel’s removal of the security devices was satisfactory; however, that failed to stop a new round of clashes.
The big test will come Friday, when thousands of Palestinians are expected for prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Muslim Sabbath. Thousands of Israeli police and soldiers will be deployed to keep order.
Jerusalem’s police chief, Yoram Halevy, urged Palestinians to keep the peace, warning that there will be a harsh response to any further outbreak of violence.
More Violence Expected Friday
Local newspaper Arutz Sheva warned today that Arab violence was expected in and around the Old City.
Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevi held a meeting to discuss the Arab problem. During the meeting, new intelligence information was circulated showing that extremist groups were planning to cause violent disruptions, disrupting the peace and endangering the general public, not only Temple Mount worshipers.
Temple Mount is now closed to men under 50. Arabs attempting to sleep overnight at the site were removed by Israeli police Thursday and road access to the site has been restricted.
Image: Israel, Temple Mount, Palestinian Arabs worship at al-Asqa mosque following murder of Israeli policemen (Nir Hasson, 16 July 2017).