Israel: Call up of Border Police reservists approved amid Jerusalem tensions
Ahmad Gharabli (AFP)
The Israeli Knesset authorized on Friday the country's military to call up extra Border Patrol reservists against the backdrop of tensions in Jerusalem, and specifically on the Temple Mount.
“Border Patrol fighters have a rich and successful history of dealing with hostile and violent activity,” Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) said. “Stationing Border Patrol troops in the capital will help bring back order quickly.”
The authorization comes as the Israeli army was on alert and preparing for continued violent clashes in Jerusalem as Palestinians plan protests in the capital and the West Bank following afternoon prayers on Friday.
Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, along with a number of other Palestinian groups, has called for a "day of rage" for Friday to coincide with weekly Muslim prayers after what they call an Israeli 'assault' on Muslim worshipers at the al-Aqsa mosque.
Police set up heavily-manned checkpoints on streets leading up to the site in Jerusalem's walled Old City, turning back youngsters, while a police surveillance blimp flew overhead.
"It's a frontline," Mazen Shawish, 52, told AFP. "You have to go though 20 military checkpoints to get to the mosque."
Inside the compound, worshippers prayed without incident. Mosque officials estimated attendance at around 8,000, while police said there were 10,000.
On an average Friday around 25,000 to 35,000 people take part.
Hundreds of young men denied entry prayed just outside the Old City walls.
Police said that ahead of the Friday prayers they had an intelligence warning that Arab youths were planning fresh confrontations and decided to keep them away.
"It was decided to limit the age of Muslim worshippers," said a police statement.
"Men aged 40 and above and women of all ages will be permitted to enter for prayers," it said.
Three days of clashes between Israeli police and Muslim protesters rocked Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound this week as Jews celebrated their new year, and there are fears of more trouble with a series of religious holidays approaching.
The violence in Jerusalem drew condemnation Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and others. Israel meanwhile, has accused Turkey of being responsible for the recent violence, reported Israel's Channel 2 news.
According to the report, which cited unnamed Israeli leaders, Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri, who is currently living in Turkey, is responsible for organizing the violence from afar. The onus therefore, has fallen on the Turkish government for allowing al-Arouri to funnel large amounts of money to Hamas and their armed military wing from Turkey.
Turkey has rejected the claims, saying that al-Arouri is no longer in Turkey.
UN appeals for calm
The UN Security Council appealed for calm and restraint Thursday after days of clashes.
In a unanimous declaration, the 15-member panel also expressed its "grave concern" and called for maintaining the rules governing the sensitive site seen as holy by both Muslims and Jews.
"The members of the Security Council called for the exercise of restraint, refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric, and upholding unchanged the historic status quo" at the compound "in word and in practice," a statement said.
The third-holiest site in Islam, the compound is also the holiest site in Judaism, which venerates it as the Temple Mount.
It is located in East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel in 1967 and at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both sides see the site as a symbol of religion and nationalism.
Under longstanding regulations, Jews are allowed to visit but cannot pray there to avoid provoking tensions.
Palestinians are deeply suspicious that Israel will seek to change rules governing the site, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said he has no intention of doing so.
Netanyahu assured UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon late Thursday that his country was determined to strictly apply the status quo.
The council said both worshippers and visitors should be without fear of violence or intimidation while at the compound.
Council members called for an end to the clashes, so that "the situation returns to normality in a way which promotes the prospects for Middle East peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians."
Increase in violence
Meanwhile, violent attacks throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank have seen a sharp increase over the past few days. Israeli security forces in the West Bank late Thursday shot and critically injured a Palestinian who hurled a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli vehicle, causing it to overturn, local media outlets reported.
The driver, however, reportedly emerged unharmed from the incident which took place on a route near the city of Nablus.
An accomplice of the Palestinian assailant was detained after attempting to flee the scene.
In a separate incident, a bus was engulfed in flames Thursday evening after it was hit by a possible Molotov cocktail in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el Amoud. According to Israeli media, the driver initially fled the bus after it was pelted by stones and alerted the police. When he returned with the police they found the bus on fire.
Also on Thursday evening, a bus driver was injured in a stone throwing attack near the West bank village of Binyamin, Israeli media outlets reported. The man was taken to Jerusalem's Haddasah Mount Scopus Hospital after being lightly injured after his windshield was damaged. Security forces are searching the area for suspects.
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I hope the IDF and police use live rounds this time.Now they have extra leverage..see how many terrorists are prepared to hurl missiles then,once a few dozen have been shot.