Jerusalem police say calm is returning to the capital

Flare-ups of violence continue, however, and extra security deployment remains in place.

By ABE SELIG
March 22, 2010 02:22
3 minute read.
A BORDER policeman detains a Palestinian rioter du

jerusalem violence good 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Although sporadic rioting continued to flare up in various parts of east Jerusalem over the weekend, police were viewing those incidents as “minor disturbances” and did not foresee an upswing in violence over the coming days, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Rosenfeld spoke to the Post as the West Bank was on edge, after four Palestinians were killed during violent confrontations with the IDF in the Nablus area on Saturday and Sunday.

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While police were taking the situation there into consideration and, according to Rosenfeld, “constantly re-analyzing the security situation in the capital,” the West Bank violence was being viewed as a “separate issue” from the recent rioting in Jerusalem.

Nonetheless, Rosenfeld said, the heightened police deployment in the capital – in place for over a week – would continue through the Pessah and Easter holidays, as thousands of visitors are expected to flock to Jerusalem during the festivals.

Police boosted its deployment in the capital some 10 days ago, after receiving intelligence assessments that wide-scale disturbances had been planned in the Old City and in east Jerusalem.

While minor clashes have erupted between Palestinian youths and security forces over the last 10 days, the focus of that violence occurred last Tuesday, which Hamas had declared as a “day of rage,” and saw widespread rioting erupt throughout east Jerusalem.

Fifteen police and Border Police officers were wounded during those clashes and some 75 Palestinians and Israeli Arabs were arrested.



Although some intelligence reports pointed to a government decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb on a list of national heritage sites as an underlying reason for the riots, Palestinian clerics and PA officials had also made unsubstantiated claims of “Israeli plots” to “take over the Temple Mount,” in days prior to violence, which undoubtedly inflamed the situation.

The Temple Mount was subsequently closed to visitors and Muslim men under the age of 50 – a step often taken by police to reduce the potential of violence on the mount itself – and the heightened police deployment remained.

Despite sporadic disturbances in the Shuafat refugee camp and in Isawiya over the weekend, Rosenfeld said that a shaky calm appeared to be returning to the capital.

In Isawiya on Sunday evening, a handful of Palestinian youths burned tires and threw rocks at security forces, but were dispersed by police and Border Police officers at the scene. No injuries were reported.

“In terms of the Temple Mount,” Rosenfeld said, “things are back to normal. All age restrictions have been lifted and the site has been re-opened for visitors.”

However, he added, age restrictions for Muslim men under the age of 50 may be re-instated before Pessah, which Rosenfeld admitted would be a “sensitive time.” All security arrangements for the holidays, however, would be decided on before the holidays begin, after additional security assessments.

Rosenfeld said he expected the arrangements to be “similar to the regular, standard security arrangements that are taken every year with regards to the holidays.”

Rosenfeld said that in addition to the thousands of police and Border Police officers deployed throughout the capital, undercover and special patrol units would also be taking part in securing large-scale events like the Priestly Blessing, which brings thousands of worshipers to the Western Wall Plaza on the second day of Hol Hamoed Pessah, and on Easter Sunday, which coincides with the final day of Hol Hamoed Pessah, the following week.

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