Israel braces for Temple Mount clashes after 'Deal of Century' released

Fatah officials stated that Abbas had rejected messages from the Shin Bet, Egypt and Saudi Arabia warning against escalating the situation.

Palestinians scuffle with Israeli police during protest against the U.S. president Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan in Jerusalem, Jan. 30, 2020 (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Palestinians scuffle with Israeli police during protest against the U.S. president Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan in Jerusalem, Jan. 30, 2020
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Security forces are bracing for clashes on the Temple Mount during Friday prayers, as tensions rise after the announcement of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan on Tuesday.
Friday prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque recently have been used to protest against Israeli actions at the site.
On Wednesday, two Palestinians were arrested after attempting to carry out a stabbing attack against a police officer on the mount. The suspects are both teenage residents of east Jerusalem and are being investigated by Israel Police.
Israeli security forces closed the doors to the Temple Mount for about an hour after the arrests, according to Palestinian media. Worshipers were unable to leave or enter the compound.

During the announcement of the “Deal of the Century” peace plan, Trump accidentally called al-Aqsa the “al-Aqua Mosque,” spurring a stream of jokes on social media.
During protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Wednesday, several Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas. Incendiary balloons, similar to those launched from the Gaza Strip, were launched on Wednesday from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya for the first time, according to Palestinian media. Multiple rock-throwing attacks were reported throughout the West Bank, with some vehicles being damaged.

The IDF continued to send reinforcements to the West Bank and the Gaza border on Wednesday, in preparation for an escalation.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration released its Middle East peace plan, which would leave much of Jerusalem in Israeli hands, including the Old City and the Temple Mount complex. The plan would, however, continue the current status quo on the mount, with Jordan continuing its custodianship over the site.
Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, called the deal an “official American-Israeli withdrawal from the Oslo Accords,” in an interview with Army Radio.
Erekat said Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem will “solely always be under the custodianship of His Majesty King Abdullah II,” according to the Jordan News Agency.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that if the deal is embraced by Israel, “the PA will consider itself free to break any and all agreements signed with Israel, including security coordination between the two sides.”
Officials from Fatah said it would begin coordinating an emergency plan with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad for field operations to stop Israeli annexations, which could lead to a large escalation of violence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Fatah officials said Abbas had rejected messages from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Egypt and Saudi Arabia warning against escalating the situation, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Palestinian sources told Walla that the situation depends on the IDF’s response to Palestinian protests. Injuries and deaths could lead to an escalation by the Palestinians.
Even though Palestinian officials have continued to publish threats against Israel and existing agreements between the two entities, Abbas has instructed Palestinian security officials to continue security coordination with Israel and to prevent a direct confrontation with Israeli forces, according to the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar.
Palestinian tradesmen refused to take part in a strike initiated by the PA, and parents of schoolchildren refused to allow their children to be involved in PA demonstrations, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Palestinian security forces conducted widespread arrests on Wednesday to prevent violent outbursts amid demonstrations. According to al-Akhbar, Palestinian security officials stopped youth from throwing stones during demonstrations in the West Bank.
“There is no doubt that the Palestinians are thinking about widespread national resistance,” said Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi to Army Radio on Wednesday. “Yesterday it began and I believe that it will continue. When you tell a people that what it has is going to the occupier, usually the people rebel. I believe that it will come.”
PIJ secretary-general Zayid Nakhalah called on Wednesday for Palestinian leaders to “be more aggressive and more willing to sacrifice to confront this conspiracy with all our strength. This plan, this conspiracy poses before us a great challenge that requires us to change our approach to dealing with everything. This is a different stage that requires different tools and thinking.”
Hamas lawmaker Muhammad Abu Tir said residents of Jerusalem are ready to “defend Al-Aqsa,” emphasizing a recent campaign encouraging increased attendance at the mosque’s Friday prayers.
Hamas urged Palestinian factions to unify and abandon the option of negotiations with Israel. He called on the Palestinians to “defend Jerusalem and face off [against] Israeli plans aimed at Judaizing the holy city.”
Basem Naim, head of Hamas’s international relations office, tweeted last week that the release of the “Deal of the Century” means a “new Nakba (Catastrophe)” and will “trigger a new intifada.” Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said “all options are open” in the response to the deal, according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency.
On Monday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh expressed support for Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, former grand mufti of Jerusalem, after he was banned from entering the Temple Mount compound. Haniyeh said he would continue political efforts to fight off Trump’s plan and “mobilize support to protect Jerusalem and its holy sites.”
Sabri was barred from entering al-Aqsa earlier this week. Supported by worshipers and lawyers, he came to the complex on Friday against the order preventing him from entering the site. He was eventually allowed to enter.
“We will not allow the occupation or anyone behind it to remain in [the land of Palestine],” said Hamas, stressing that the Jordan Valley and West Bank will be “cleansed of all settlements, such as Haifa, Jaffa and Acre” and that Jerusalem would remain Palestinian’s “eternal capital.”
Hamas has claimed that Israeli authorities have escalated the situation at al-Aqsa and have again tried to close the Gate of Mercy at the Temple Mount complex. Hamas said Israel has been “atrociously beating, arresting and threatening” Palestinian worshipers and has banned them from entering the complex. It noted that Jews continue to visit the complex and renovations are occurring along the southern wall of the mount, warning “against the consequences of these serious Israeli steps.”
Hamas and other Palestinian officials began calling for mass attendance at the Fajr dawn prayers at al-Aqsa, the Ibrahimi Mosque and other sites in the West Bank and Gaza two weeks ago, leading to a high number of worshipers at al-Aqsa over the past two weeks. After the prayers, Hamas said “the message was clear: al-Aqsa and the other holy sites are a redline.”
Palestinian WAFA news reported earlier this month that Azzam Khatib, director of the Wakf in Jerusalem, announced that 29,610 Jewish “fanatics” had “stormed” al-Aqsa in 2019.
“All signs and data indicate an escalation in the frequency of violations against the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings during this year through a series of unprecedented trespasses, which constitute an infringement on the historical and legal status of the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque as an Islamic mosque for Muslims alone under the patronage of King Abdullah II,” said Khatib.
Former MK and Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick was seen on the mount on Thursday, according to Palestinian reports.
The Jerusalem Post revealed last month that Jewish visitors to the site have started praying, undisturbed by police forces. According to some of the visitors, as of the end of December, police officers continued to allow Jewish prayer on the mount.
Maariv contributed to this report.