Security forces brace for capital, Gaza violence ahead of Jerusalem Day

Sheikh Jarrah court decision delayed following intense international pressure.

Israeli police officers detain a Palestinian suspected of throwing stones during clashes outside Jerusalem's Old City (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Israeli police officers detain a Palestinian suspected of throwing stones during clashes outside Jerusalem's Old City
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Security forces braced for increased violence in the capital, the West Bank and along the Gaza border ahead of Jerusalem Day as Palestinians launched two rockets at southern Israel and police clashed with Arabs in Sheikh Jarrah.
The situation was so tense Sunday that the Israel Police weighed closing the Temple Mount, known to Arabs as al Haram al Sharif, to Jewish visitors on Monday or at least limiting their number.
The police also cut down on the number of participants in the annual Jerusalem Day flag parade, which traditionally goes thorough Damascus Gate and into the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Police plan to decide on whether to change the parade’s route on Monday morning based on overnight events.
Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police Sunday, throwing rocks toward security forces outside of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus, the police reported, adding that three officers were injured. The right-wing NGO Honenu reported that six Jews were injured in the clashes.
Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday launched two rockets at southern Israel as well as incendiary balloons at the Jewish state that started dozens of fires in the South. In response, the IDF increased its troop level in the West Bank and along the Gaza border and closed the fishing zone to Gaza fishermen.
Extremist forces will not be allowed to disrupt the peace of Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. He issued a warning against those who attack Israel either in Jerusalem or along the Gaza border.
“I say to the terrorist organizations: Israel will respond powerfully to any act of aggression from the Gaza Strip,” he said.
With respect to Jerusalem, we won’t allow any violent public disturbances,” Netanyahu said, adding that “we are currently witnessing violent disturbances in Jerusalem under the influence of agitators.”
He was speaking at a special government meeting held in honor of Jerusalem Day, which began Sunday evening and ends late in the afternoon on Monday.
Jerusalem Day marks the day Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War in 1967 and reunified the city. Until then it had been split between the two countries.
“We will not allow any extremist element to undermine the quiet in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. He spoke after a weekend of violent outbreaks in Jerusalem, including on the Temple Mount, in which over 200 Palestinians and over a dozen police officers were injured.
“We will uphold law and order vigorously and responsibly. We will continue to guard freedom of worship for all faiths, but we will not allow violent disturbances.”
The deteriorating Jerusalem situation caught the attention of the White House, the Kremlin and even Pope Francis in Rome, who called on Sunday to end the violence in Jerusalem, inviting parties to seek solutions to respect the multicultural identity of the Holy City.
“Violence breeds violence: Stop clashes,” he told pilgrims who gathered in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome.
Jordan, which has a special custodial relationship to the Temple Mount, urged Israel on Sunday to stop what it described as “barbaric” attacks on worshipers, which over the weekend resulted in Israeli security forces shooting tear gas at demonstrators in the Aqsa Mosque compound. Jordan said it would step up international pressure.
“What the Israeli police and Special Forces are doing, from violations against the mosque to attacks on worshipers, is barbaric [behavior] that is rejected and condemned,” the Jordanian government said in a statement.
Reuters, Anna Ahronheim and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.