Jerusalem: Jerusalem’s Old City has been deployed with police officers on high alert on Friday morning in anticipation of violent riots by Muslim worshippers over Israel’s installation of metal detectors at the Temple Mount compound. The increased security measures around the holy site were instituted following a terror attack last Friday at the Temple Mount that saw three Arab Israeli gunmen shoot and kill two Israeli police officers.
“The cabinet has authorised the Israel Police to make any decision in order to ensure free access to the holy sites, while upholding security and public order,” the Times of Israel quoted a late-night statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, as saying, after hours of consultations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ministers and security chiefs. The Palestinian terror group Hamas called for mass protests on Friday against the increased security measures.
Muslim clerics have also been urging the faithful to skip prayers in neighbourhood mosques on Friday and converge on the shrine, in an attempt to draw larger crowds. Worshippers have been asked this week to pray in the streets rather than submit to the new security procedures. In addition to the heavy police presence, the Army announced that five battalions would be made available to deal with violence in and around the capital.
Clashes erupted on Thursday between Palestinians protestors and the police in Jerusalem’s Old City after thousands of Muslim worshippers gathered around the contested Temple Mount holy site for evening prayers. Last Friday, following the deadly attack, Israel initially closed the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The compound, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, was reopened on Sunday with metal detectors installed, a step Palestinians protested as a change to the longstanding status quo.
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