Wary quiet returns to eastern Jerusalem as Al-Aksa restrictions lifted with end of Succot

Wary quiet returns to ea

border police east jerusalem 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
border police east jerusalem 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Life seemed to be returning to normal in Ras al-Amud Sunday afternoon, as young boys played in the streets and shoppers bustled around the east Jerusalem neighborhood's main square. Nonetheless, a sense of disquiet was felt among residents of the neighborhood, where on Friday, dozens of keffiyeh-clad youths had pelted police and Border Police officers with stones, drawing them deep into the narrow streets and alleyways alongside the Mount of Olives Cemetery, where other residents joined in the rioting. Clad in face masks, undercover police officers were eventually seen moving in to help police make arrests in the neighborhood during that unrest, as everything from stones to paint rained down on them from the apartments above. A number of young men had been on edge over the possibility that journalists were moonlighting as undercover agents during Friday's riots. Many of them were still wary on Sunday afternoon, as few were willing to speak with reporters, whom they eyed suspiciously. "I hope that you have a very nice day and find what you are looking for," one young man, smiling slightly, told this reporter when asked about the situation. "But nobody here wants to talk about it; in fact, we don't even know what you're talking about." But another man, who called himself Haj Faraji, who owns a vegetable store in the neighborhood square, told The Jerusalem Post that he believed the violence was now over, and wouldn't flare up again. "Unless the police come back," he added. "The young men here on Friday were responding to the police, and of course, all of the talk about Al-Aksa [mosque]." Faraji said that just as had been the case in other east Jerusalem neighborhoods, rumors of Israeli plans to take over the mosque and boiling tensions leading up to Friday's noon prayers there had spilled over in Ras al-Amud, and the subsequent violence was simply a product of that. "Al-Aksa isn't just important to Palestinians," he said. "It's a revered holy site for two billion Muslims. "Even during [Operation Cast Lead] in Gaza, there wasn't rioting in Ras al-Amud like there was here on Friday. We just don't understand - the Jews have the Kotel, the Christians have the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and we have Al-Aksa. Why can't it just stay that way?" Faraji also spoke of the fear of undercover officers in the neighborhood, warning, "Make sure you walk around with a visible press card, and even then, it's not so safe." Meanwhile on Sunday it was announced that an agreement reached between the Israeli and Jordanian governments had allowed for a number of Muslim worshipers, who had reportedly been holed up inside Al-Aksa Mosque since the beginning of the tensions more than a week ago, to leave without being arrested. Senior Israeli diplomatic officials said on Sunday that in addition to Jordan, other international bodies were involved in mediating last week to get the group on the Temple Mount out quietly and without arrests. The goal, the official said, was to calm the situation on the Temple Mount and not allow last week's tensions to spiral out of control. The official said Israel received "quiet" in return for allowing the group to leave the Temple Mount compound. In addition to Jordan, the UN - through its Mideast envoy Robert Serry - was also involved in the mediation efforts that led to the deal. While Palestinian sources had claimed that hundreds of worshipers had been inside the mosque, police on Sunday said that only a few dozen such worshipers had been there, and had left on Friday. Police on Sunday also lifted the week-long restrictions on Muslim worshipers under the age of 50 from entering the site, and reopened the area to visitors, after Succot concluded Saturday night. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.