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Israel bars Jews from Temple Mount after Muslims riot during Ramadan

The Israeli government has banned Jewish visitors from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount through the end of Ramada because of security concerns.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai unanimously recommended the movie. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also directed the security agencies to deploy all necessary forces to secure the Western Wall below the Temple Mount for continued Jewish worship, his office said.

The decision was announced hours after Hamas issued a statement calling on Palestinians to flock to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound atop the mount in droves during the final ten days of Ramadan and not to leave the site. They also warned Israel against allowing continued visits of Jews there, as has been the case for most of Ramadan. The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary since the seventh century, is the holiest site for Jews.

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Israeli Arab teens rioted there a week ago, blockading themselves in the mosque. When Israeli police attempted to open it back up to visitors, a confrontation resulted with Arabs firing highly explosive fireworks off inside the mosque.  Observers on social media criticized Israeli security forces for again getting involved in what has become a yearly confrontation.

While both Jews and Christians have been able to visit the Temple Mount, where the Second Temple once stood, both are prevented from praying. Muslim security also prevents Christians from opening displaying Bibles or gathering in groups for prayer.

A majority of Orthodox rabbis long barred Jews from visiting the site because of its holy nature as the site of the two biblical temples, but religious views on the matter have shifted in recent years, which have seen a record number of largely national religious Jewish pilgrims ascend to the site. It is governed by a status quo under which Muslims are allowed to pray while non-Muslims can only visit.

The uptick in Jewish visitors has intensified long-held claims by Palestinians and Arab countries that Israel is violating the Temple Mount status quo, an accusation Israel vehemently denies. However, along with the rise in Jewish visitors has been a quiet shift in police policy to allow hushed Jewish prayer at the site that has been well documented over the years.

While police geared for clashes with Muslim worshippers at Al-Aqsa on Sunday, they decided against raiding the mosque after receiving intelligence that the Palestinians inside were not stockpiling weapons, according to Israeli authorities. They said this was not the case last week when hundreds of Palestinians barricaded themselves inside with explosive devices, rocks and fireworks in order to target Israeli officers and civilians.

Roughly 350 Arab Muslims were arrested in last week’s Al-Aqsa clash, with the vast majority released hours later. However, 17 of them who had illegally entered Israel from the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and were charged on Tuesday for their participation in the riot, and 15 more will reportedly be indicted in the coming days.

Jordan has responsibility for security on the Temple Mount but is fearful of intervening because its population is 60% Palestinian Arab.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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