JAFFA — Friday prayers normally held at hundreds of mosques in Arab towns in Israel were canceled in dozens of locations following pressure from local Muslim leaders to encourage thousands to throng the Temple Mount.
For five consecutive days, Muslim rioters have engaged in violent clashes targeting Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City near a main entrance to the Temple Mount.
Only three out of six mosques held Friday prayers here in Jaffa. The other three were closed and worshipers were sent to Jerusalem. But Israeli police organized beforehand and reportedly did not allow buses to reach Jerusalem. In protest, the Islamic Movement decided to hold a mass prayer in the main public park in Jaffa.
Islamic Movement members claimed that representatives of the police and the Shin Bet gave bus drivers an order forbidding them to continue driving towards Jerusalem.
This scenario repeated itself in other locations as well when the Islamic Movement did not allow prayers to be held at various mosques and called on worshipers to take organized transport to Jerusalem to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Yesterday, Palestinian organizations called on Muslims to arrive en masse to Jerusalem to break through the barriers installed by Israeli security forces and forcefully remove the electronic metal detectors put in place by Israeli police at the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque in response to an attack at the site last week that took the lives of two Israeli police officers.
At a press conference held by Palestinian terrorist factions in Gaza, an official from the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad read a joint statement calling on worshipers to go to Jerusalem and engage Israeli security forces until the metal detectors are removed.
The official, Ahmad al-Modallal, warned Israel of the response from the Palestinian organizations if the “assault” on the Al Aqsa Mosque and the worshipers continued. He called on Palestinians “to rise up everywhere and hold marches of rage in protest of the situation at Al Aqsa.”
On Friday, Israeli Police cited information that “extremist elements” where planning to “to cause violent disruptions to the public order, and thereby to threaten the public peace, including the [safety] of those coming to pray at the holy sites and other residents of the area.”
As a result, Israeli security forces erected checkpoints at main entrances to Jerusalem and are blocking several roads leading to the Temple Mount area. Some 3,000 police forces were deployed to Jerusalem’s Old City in addition to five Israel Defense Forces battalions that have been put on standby.
The Muslim worshipers are purportedly protesting the Israeli government’s decision to install metal detectors at the entrances to the Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and also holy to Islam.
Protest leaders, including top Palestinian officials, claim the metal detectors are part of an Israeli conspiracy to hamper Muslim worship at the Mount.
The activists and Palestinian officials seemingly fail to note that Israel’s new security measures were put in place in direct response to the murderous Palestinian terrorist attack at the Mount last Friday in which three assailants somehow smuggled weapons onto the site. The metal detectors will protect all visitors to the Mount, including Muslim worshipers.
The activists protesting at the Temple Mount ignore that metal detectors have been in place for years for Jewish and Christian worshipers accessing the Western Wall. And Muslims on the Hajj pilgrimage pass through metal detectors at airports and border crossings.
The charge that Israel is hampering Muslim access to the Temple Mount is contradicted by facts on the ground. Israel allows the Jordanian-controlled Waqf to serve as custodians of the Mount and grants Muslim worshipers access to the site 24 hours per day, seven days a week with the exception of rare instances of security threats.
Jewish and Christian visitors, however, are restricted by the Waqf from visiting the Mount except on small tours for about two hours per day. The Waqf does not allow non-Muslims to pray on the Mount or bring holy objects to the site; whereas Muslim prayer is unrestricted. Waqf representatives closely monitor non-Muslim visitors to the site and are known to boot those engaging in prayer.