Heightened security in J'lem extended after weekend clashes

Capital police chief's decision comes before rededication of Old City's Hurva synagogue.

By ABE SELIG
March 14, 2010 02:01
3 minute read.
  Arab throws stones at police during clashes in J

Arab throws stones 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Following a weekend of sporadic clashes between Arab youths and security forces in and around the capital, Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco decided to extend heightened security measures put into place in the Old City and east Jerusalem for an additional day.

Franco’s decision, made following a security assessment on Saturday night, came before the scheduled rededication of the historic Hurva synagogue in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter on Monday.

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The rededication of the synagogue, which dates back to 1700 and has been razed and rebuilt twice – it was last destroyed by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948 – is expected to draw large crowds and has been the source of rising tensions and circulating rumors regarding the Temple Mount.

Palestinian clerics have reportedly claimed that the rebuilding of the synagogue would also give way to plans by right-wing Jewish elements to lay a cornerstone for the construction of the third temple on the Temple Mount – a rumor, based on an 18th-century rabbinic tradition purportedly declared by the Vilna Gaon, which has been brushed off by right-wing activists themselves as having been given “certain poetic license.”

Nonetheless, an increased deployment of security forces will continue throughout the Old City and elsewhere in east Jerusalem on Sunday, and only Muslim men above the age of 50 and women of any age will be permitted into the Temple Mount compound – a common step taken by police to reduce the potential for violence.

Friday’s unrest continued throughout the day in various east Jerusalem neighborhoods including Wadi Joz and Ras el-Amud, where youths hurled rocks at security forces, lightly wounding a Border Policeman.

Rioting and rock-throwing were also reported near Ramallah and at the weekly demonstrations in Bil’in and Ni’lin, attended by over 100 Palestinians and left-wing activists.



Restrictions to the Temple Mount began on Friday morning amid fears of violence, and young Arabs barred from the mount clashed with security forces at various spots in and around the Old City. A policeman was lightly wounded by rocks and four young Arabs were arrested for attacking security forces, police said.

At one point, police prevented several Arab youngsters from breaking through a security barrier at the Ras el-Amud checkpoint in a bid to get to the Temple Mount.

Also beginning Friday morning, some 3,000 police were deployed on the mount and throughout the Old City, and access to the site was restricted to men over 50 and women.

This followed an intelligence report warning of violence over the decision to include Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs and Bethlehem’s Rachel’s Tomb on the heritage list, as well as over this week’s announcement by an Interior Ministry committee of the planned expansion of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.

Also on Friday, rock-throwing broke out between Jews and Arabs near the tomb of Shimon Hatzadik in Sheikh Jarrah after the weekly left-wing protest at the disputed east Jerusalem neighborhood was dispersed.

Earlier on Friday, about 250 locals and left-wing protesters were stopped by police when they attempted to march toward Jewish houses in Sheikh Jarrah. Police declared that such a march would be illegal and ordered the protesters to return to the site of the demonstration. When they refused to do so, they were pushed back by force. They then began to chant slogans criticizing the Jewish presence in the neighborhood.

Eight demonstrators were detained following the incident, but they were released on bail and barred from Sheikh Jarrah for a period of two weeks. The woman who had initiated the illegal march was taken in for questioning.

On Friday evening, shots were fired at a Border Police patrol jeep near Givon Hahadasha, a settlement northwest of Jerusalem. No one was hurt.

Furthermore, following a security assessment indicating that rioting might spread to the West Bank, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the army to impose a general closure on the territories, beginning at midnight Thursday and continuing until midnight Saturday.

However, travel to and from the West Bank was being permitted in humanitarian cases.

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