Palestinian women celebrate outside Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Police took no chances on Friday as thousands of Muslims came to Jerusalem to pray. Over two weeks the Temple Mount and al-Aksa area has become a flashpoint for mass prayer protests after metal detectors were installed on July 14 and then removed on July 26.
After Palestinians thronged the area on Thursday and riots resulted, police had ordered the Mount closed to men under 50 for Friday prayers, a decision that was reversed after noon prayers passed peacefully on Friday.
At Jaffa Gate on Friday, the pedestrian entrance was closed and everyone hoping to enter the Old City had to go through a police cordon. Police decided to erect barricades on streets leading to the Old City, rather than have hundreds converge on checkpoints closer to the Temple Mount.
At Damascus Gate the barricades were set up near a line of shops, such that hundreds of men ended up praying in the streets. This has been the method of protest over the last two weeks. Around 1 in the afternoon several hundred young and middle-aged men arrived with prayer rugs. After a few chants devoted to “al-Aksa,” they prayed and then milled around and left. Although tensions seemed high, there were no clashes with the dozens of riot police present. One young man who ran off after shouting at the officers was briefly chased, but local leaders intervened to calm the situation. Police who had briefly thrown on their helmets to chase the kid, went back to their positions. A watermelon vendor touting his wares drowned out any shouting by the protesters.
In the West Bank Palestinian media reported 250 injured in clashes with Israeli forces from Bethlehem to Ramallah. By nightfall restrictions on men entering the Old City and al-Aksa had been lifted and thousands came to the mosque and Temple Mount compound. Video posted online showed the entire compound full of people, many taking selfies and posting online about the “victory” over Israel.
The tensions are not over. According to video posted on 48 NNews on Saturday there were scuffles inside near Lions’ Gate, at the Gate of the Tribes entrance to the Temple Mount, the site of the July 14 terrorist attack, when police on Friday sought to check some worshipers leaving the city.