Tensions were high on the Temple Mount amid calls for mass attendance at Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and reports that the Trump Administration's "Deal of the Century" peace plan would be released within the week.Israeli security forces arrested multiple Palestinian activists in Jerusalem and dispersed worshipers at Al-Aqsa, as Palestinians continued to call for mass attendance at Friday dawn prayers at holy sites throughout the West Bank and Gaza. At least two people were injured on the Temple Mount as police used stun grenades and rubber bullets, according to the Palestinian Quds news agency. One worshiper was arrested.
The Hamas terrorist group and other Palestinian officials called for mass attendance at the Fajr dawn prayers at Al-Aqsa, the Ibrahimi Mosque and other sites in the West Bank and Gaza last week, leading to a high number of worshipers at Al-Aqsa last Friday. After the prayers, Hamas stated that, "the message was clear: Al-Aqsa and the other holy sites are a REDLINE."
The Fajr prayers, the first ones of the day before sunrise, were held in protest of “Israeli Judaization schemes” at religious sites in the West Bank, including at the Temple Mount and the Cave of the Patriarchs.Balloons carrying a Palestinian flag were launched from the Temple Mount complex during Friday prayers, according to Quds news.
Balloons bearing the flag of Palestine flown over Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem during today's Friday prayer pic.twitter.com/qWvQcPTyXa— Quds News Network (@Qudsn_en) January 24, 2020
The Israel Police was worried that clashes may break out on the mount during and after the afternoon prayers as well, according to Mako news.
Preparations for possible clashes began even before initial reports about the possible imminent release of the deal. Israel Police signed orders to keep Palestinian activists from the site due to fears that clashes could break out like last week, when similar calls were made for mass attendance for Friday prayers at the mosque. Police have been instructed to disperse any disturbances by force.
The administration of US President Donald Trump is reportedly planning on releasing the Middle East peace plan known, as the "Deal of the Century," within a week. Channel 12 reported that, under the plan, Jerusalem would be undivided under Israeli control. Dr. Basem Naim, head of Hamas’s International Relations Office, tweeted on Thursday that the release of the Deal of the Century means a "new Nakba (Catastrophe)" and will "trigger a new intifada."
Hamas stressed in a press release last week that "the Israeli occupation’s attempts to judaize Jerusalem and holy sites are an alarming sign that must prompt our Arab and Islamic Ummah (community), along with the free people of the world, to intervene immediately. We call for similar Fajr prayers to be organized in all Arab and Islamic capitals for the sake of Al-Aqsa and holy places in Palestine."
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was barred from entering Al-Aqsa earlier this week. Sabri, supported by worshipers and lawyers, entered the Temple Mount complex on Friday against the order preventing him from entering the site; he was eventually allowed to enter.
At least five Palestinians were injured and another three were arrested in clashes on the Temple Mount last Friday. Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem condemned the clashes, saying that, “the brutality of Israeli occupation police will not dissuade Jerusalem’s residents from performing prayers and defending the Aqsa Mosque. This popular fight is continuous to defend Jerusalem’s identity and future.”
Hamas has claimed that Israeli authorities have escalated the situation at al-Aqsa and have again tried to close the Gate of Mercy at the Temple Mount complex. A press release by Hamas stated that Israel has been “atrociously beating, arresting and threatening” Palestinian worshipers and has banned them from entering the complex. The terrorist group noted that Jews continue to visit the complex and renovations are occurring along the southern wall of the Temple Mount, warning “against the consequences of these serious Israeli steps.”
Palestinian WAFA news reported earlier this month that Azzam Khatib, director of the Waqf in Jerusalem, announced that 29,610 Jewish “fanatics” had "stormed" al-Aqsa Mosque throughout 2019.
“All signs and data indicate an escalation in the frequency of violations against the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings during this year through a series of unprecedented trespasses, which constitute an infringement on the historical and legal status of the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque as an Islamic mosque for Muslims alone under the patronage of King Abdullah II [of Jordan],” said Khatib.
According to Yareah, an organization that promotes Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, 30,416 Jews visited the site in 2019, the first time the number had topped 30,000. Additional non-Jewish Israelis and Israeli tour groups visited the site as well, but are not included in Yaraeh’s statistics.
The Waqf director warned against attempts by Israel to “exploit the issue of al-Aqsa Mosque” as a platform for political achievements and electoral purposes for people and groups “who do not understand the dangers of these actions, in their efforts and insistence to agitate the feelings of millions of Muslims around the world.” According to Khatib, the Waqf is combating all measures against the mosque and all its buildings, including the Gate of Mercy, from which Muslim worshipers have been distanced. Tensions escalated around the Gate of Mercy building last year, when the state attempted to prevent the Jordanian Waqf from building an illegal mosque in the structure. The Waqf, an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, administers the Temple Mount site.
Al-Aqsa is located at the southern end of the Temple Mount complex.
The Jerusalem Post revealed last month that Jewish visitors to the site have started praying, undisturbed by police forces. According to some of the visitors, as of the end of December, police officers continued to allow Jewish prayer on the mount.