WORSHIPERS PERFORM Taraweeh prayers at al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City earlier this week..
(photo credit: SLIMAN KHADER/FLASH90)
Police on Thursday finalized security measures for the first Friday prayer at al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount for the month of Ramadan, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of Muslims from the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Thousands of officers from multiple units will patrol the Old City, each of its entrances and security checkpoints at the Kalandiya and Bethlehem Crossings to ensure a safe and timely procession to the contested holy site from, police said.
“The main idea is to allow thousands of people to come into the Old City and make their way inside to the Temple Mount area,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“Coordination has been made with Border Police and different units that will be mobilized in the different areas.”
Security will be most pronounced at east Jerusalem’s Damascus and Dung Gates, where the majority of visitors will be entering the Old City, he said.
“Thousands of officers will be involved in Friday’s operations to maintain security and prevent any incidents,” Rosenfeld said.
Muslim attendance at al-Aksa Mosque spikes considerably during the four Friday prayers of Ramadan, particularly on the first Friday, necessitating heightened security, he said.
According to Rosenfeld, police have not received any intelligence of looming attacks but will remain vigilant during the entire month to respond to, or prevent, disturbances immediately.
During periods of unrest in Ramadan, police typically restrict male Muslims under the age of 40 from entering the Temple Mount as a precaution against violence.
“As long as Friday prayers are peaceful there will be no restrictions on those who come to pray,” Rosenfeld said, noting that the only time age restrictions are enforced by police occurs when violence takes place or is imminent.
“As of today, there are no threats that have been made necessitating restrictions for Friday prayers,” he said. “Age restrictions are only implemented if police receive concrete information about possible security risks.”
Rosenfeld emphasized that as long as Friday prayers remain peaceful, police will focus on ensuring that the tens of thousands of worshipers can reach the Temple Mount as expeditiously as possible.
“We are making security arrangements to allow people to pass through the Kalandiya and Bethlehem checkpoints and arrive in the Old City and Temple Mount area quickly and safely,” he said. “But at the same time, we are prepared to prevent any security issues that may take place and will respond immediately.”