IDF: Thousands of Soldiers to Be on Alert for Friday Har HaBayis Unrest

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli police officers on guard outside Har HaBayis on Wednesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Whether or not Israel removes the security measures at Har HaBayis in time for Friday prayers, the IDF is preparing for significant unrest in and around Yerushalayim, as tens of thousands of Arabs from around the country are expected at Friday prayers. The IDF spokesperson said Thursday that the army would deploy five brigades — as many as 5,000 soldiers — in preparation for the threatened protests and riots in Yerushalayim and in Yehudah and Shomron. All weekend passes for IDF soldiers are canceled, the army said Thursday.

Those threats were made by numerous groups, including Fatah, Hamas, the Waqf and the Palestinian Authority itself. The Waqf is still boycotting Har HaBayis, refusing to enter the compound by having to pass through the security measures. The current plan is to conduct a mass prayer session Friday morning outside the gates of Har HaBayis. The Waqf has called on mosques throughout Israel to cancel services Friday and instead attend the protests, and officials say they expect tens of thousands of Arabs from around the country to converge on the Old City.

Reports earlier said that Israel was considering removing the security equipment, replacing the body scanners and metal detectors with spot personal searches. But even if that does take place, a huge crowd — numbering perhaps in the hundreds of thousands — is expected to surround Har HaBayis Friday morning, and the IDF is preparing to meet any threat, the spokesperson said.

The reports said that Israel has been seeking a way to defuse the tension, and has been discussing alternatives to the security measures with Jordan. The U.S., according to a report in the London-based A-Sharq al-Awsat daily, has given Israel an “ultimatum” to remove the equipment by Thursday night. But according to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the security measures in place need to remain there. Speaking to Army Radio, Erdan said reports Wednesday that the Shin Bet had recommended removing the equipment were not true. “We held a number of discussions with security organizations before installing the equipment,” Erdan said. “No one rejected our position that the equipment was necessary.”

In addition, said Erdan, “I have not heard until today of any objection in the international sphere. The Western countries do not understand the Palestinian demand to remove the equipment. To be clear, the body scanners are not at the entrance to the mosques, but to the Har HaBayis compound. The distance between the entrance and the mosques is significant.”

Regarding reports of an “ultimatum,” Erdan said of the A-Sharq al-Awsat report that he “had no idea what that report is based on.” With that, he is not ruling out the possibility that an alternative system for security checks on Har HaBayis is being discussed “in order to defuse the tension. I see no reason for the situation not to be calm even with the security measures in place.”

the IDF is preparing for significant unrest in and around Yerushalayim, as tens of thousands of Arabs from around the country are expected at Friday prayers. The IDF spokesperson said Thursday that the army would deploy five brigades – as many as 5,000 soldiers – in preparation for the threatened protests and riots in Yerushalayim and in Yehudah and Shomron. All weekend passes for IDF soldiers are canceled, the army said Thursday.

Those threats were made by numerous groups, including Fatah, Hamas, the Waqf and the Palestinian Authority itself. The Waqf is still boycotting HaBayis, refusing to enter the compound by having to pass through the security measures. The current plan is to conduct a mass prayer session on Friday morning outside the gates of Har HaBayis. The Waqf has called on mosques throughout Israel to cancel services Friday and instead attend the protests, and officials say they expect tens of thousands of Arabs from around the country to converge on the Old City.

Reports earlier said that Israel was considering removing the security equipment, replacing the body scanners and metal detectors with spot personal searches. But even if that does take place, a huge crowd – numbering perhaps in the hundreds of thousands – is expected to surround Har HaBayis Friday morning, and the IDF is preparing to meet any threat, the spokesperson said.

The reports said that Israel has been seeking a way to defuse the tension, and has been discussing alternatives to the security measures with Jordan. The U.S., according to a report in the London-based A-Sharq al-Awsat daily, has given Israel an “ultimatum” to remove the equipment by Thursday night. But according to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the security measures in place need to remain there. Speaking to Army Radio, Erdan said that reports Wednesday that the Shin Bet had recommended removing the equipment were not true. “We held a number of discussions with security organizations before installing the equipment,” Erdan said. “No one rejected our position that the equipment was necessary.”

In addition, said Erdan, “I have not heard until today of any objection in the international sphere. The Western countries do not understand the Palestinian demand to remove the equipment. To be clear, the body scanners are not at the entrance to the mosques, but to the Har HaBayis compound. The distance between the entrance and the mosques is significant.”

Regarding reports of an “ultimatum,” Erdan said of the the A-Sharq al-Awsat report that he “had no idea what that report is based on.” With that, he is not ruling out the possibility that an alternative system for security checks on Har HaBayis is being discussed “in order to defuse the tension. I see no reason for the situation not to be calm even with the security measures in place.”