Massive police presence to try to keep Jerusalem Day peace

Terrorist stabs two Israelis in Old City Friday ahead of Sunday’s annual reunification march.

June 2, 2019 17:16
Israeli police patrol in the Old City during Jerusalem Day, 2019

Israeli police patrol in the Old City during Jerusalem Day, 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Thousands of police have been deployed around and inside Jerusalem’s Old City ahead of Sunday’s Jerusalem Day march.

An already tense situation was made even more volatile after a 19-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank stabbed a 47-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy in the Old City Friday morning.

Despite the stabbings, police were considering allowing hundreds of Jewish celebrants onto the Temple Mount Sunday, Channel 11 reported Saturday night. The commander of the Jerusalem District, Maj.-Gen. Doron Yedid, would be holding security consultations and making a final decision on Sunday morning.

Already Saturday afternoon, more than a hundred members of youth groups dressed in white and carrying large Israeli flags were walking along the capitol’s Hebron Road on the way to the Old City. Saturday night, flags were raised outside Damascus Gate amid police protection ahead of Sunday’s march.

In Friday’s terror attack, 19-year-old Yossouf Vajaya from the village of Ibwein outside Ramallah stabbed a 47-year-old man near the Damascus Gate at about 6 a.m.

 The attacker then ran away and stabbed teen Yisrael Meir Nachumberg near the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, leaving him in moderate condition after he was stabbed in the back. He was evacuated to the Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem.

According to police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld, Vajaya had come to the Temple Mount to pray for Ramadan. The terrorist was shot and killed by police, he added.

Dr. Alon Schwartz, trauma surgeon at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, told reporters that the 47-year-old victim was brought to the hospital in critical condition with several stab wounds to the chest, neck, head and upper body. Schwartz said the man was stable but remained in critical condition.

Nachumberg’s brother was walking with him when the attack took place.

“We were walking back from praying at the Western Wall when he [the terrorist] came from my right side, jumped at my brother and stabbed him in the back. The knife was full of blood,” he said at the Ein Kerem hospital on Friday. “He didn’t say a word. I saw him [the terrorist] running with the knife, he just jumped at my brother... I ran up toward the police, my brother ran toward the Hurva Synagogue for help. He saw a young man and asked ‘Is there anything on my back?’ and that’s when he was told that he was full of blood.”

Following the attack, President Reuven Rivlin said: “We are praying for the recovery of those injured in this morning’s stabbing attack in Jerusalem. I am with the families who are at their dear ones’ sides in hospital in these difficult hours.”

“We will not be deterred by this despicable terror that seeks to cut short life, and its perpetrators and their accomplices will face the full force of the law,” he said.

Jerusalem Day marks Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, which saw the 55th Paratroopers Brigade, commanded by Col. Motta Gur break through the Jordanian defenses and take the Old City and east Jerusalem. “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” was Gur’s famous cry that marked the beginning of Israeli rule over a united Jerusalem.

The day has increasingly taken on a nationalistic bent and is highlighted by a flag march that passes through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

The marchers primarily consist of National-Religious teenagers, and shopkeepers in the quarter usually close their businesses to avoid altercations with the flag-waving celebrants. The High Court of Justice threw out a recent petition that sought to change the route of the march.

On Sunday evening, Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak at the main Jerusalem Day event taking place at Ammunition Hill. Earlier in the day, Rivlin will speak at a Mount Herzl ceremony for fallen soldiers of the Six Day War.

Saturday night, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion marked the official opening of Jerusalem Day festivities at a prayer service attended by thousands at the Western Wall.

Among other events taking place Sunday are a chain of 7,000 students holding hands from the Knesset Menorah to the heritage lamp at the Western Wall.

The Education Ministry is dedicating a special day titled “Day of Unification of Jerusalem.” About 20,000 students will be able to enjoy educational activities throughout the capital, from stories of heroism to visits to heritage sites.

Tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers prayed at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Friday, as Muslims marked the fourth and final Friday prayers held during Ramadan and the beginning of the holiday of Laylat al-Qadr.

On Friday afternoon, a Palestinian teenager was shot dead by IDF troops as he tried to climb the security barrier to bypass a checkpoint east of Bethlehem.

He was identified by the Palestinian Health Ministry as 16-year-old Abdullah Louai Ghaith, while another Palestinian identified as 21-year-old Mu’men Abu Tbaish, was rushed to hospital after “sustaining a critical injury.”

Also on Friday, Israeli troops detained a 40-year-old Palestinian man who was found to be carrying a knife as he tried to cross the Kalandiya checkpoint, north of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Police Commander Yedid instructed Border Police to intensify security checks at the Jerusalem border crossings to prevent and foil terrorist organizations carrying out attacks.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, several Palestinians were injured as thousands took part in the Marches of Return along the border fence between Gaza and Israel on Friday.

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that seven Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and live fire by IDF troops stationed along the fence.

The IDF said 4,000 Palestinians in several locations along the fence burned tires and threw stones and explosive devices toward troops. In addition, troops used riot control measures to push back a number of attempts by Gazans to approach the security fence.

Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.

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