Police Clear Out Mosque, Prepare for New Riots

Israeli police stand guard at the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Yerushalayim, Friday. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

Police in Yerushalayim were on alert again Friday, as mass riots were expected in the area of Har HaBayis. On Thursday night, police entered the compound and evacuated several hundred Arab rioters who had barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque, with police making over 100 arrests, according to media reports.

Thousands of police were on duty Friday to deal with the anticipated unrest at the end of Friday prayers. Unlike last Friday, when Arabs rioted because of security measures, including body scanners and metal detectors, that had been placed at the entrances to Har HaBayis, this week’s riots were expected as Arabs celebrated their “victory” over Israel, with the removal of all security measures.

Thousands of Arabs clashed with police Thursday night, with Arabs throwing stones down at Jewish mispallelim at the Kosel. Police used antiriot measures to break up the mob. According to the Red Crescent, 94 Arabs were injured in those clashes. After the riot broke up, dozens of Arabs barricaded themselves inside the mosque on Har HaBayis, ignoring calls by police and the Waqf to go home. Police eventually entered the compound and physically removed the Arabs, arresting many of them, the first time arrests were made inside the mosque.

Police, as they did last Friday, have closed all the roads in the area of the Old City. Entrance to Har HaBayis will be permitted only to male Arabs 50 years of age and older. There are no restrictions on females. Yerushalayim Police Chief Yoram Levi said that police were committed to maintaining safety and freedom of access to all sites, while ensuring that security is maintained.

Hamas has called for another “day of rage” over the security measures installed at Har HaBayis – even though those measures were largely removed earlier this week. Instead of the body scanners, metal detectors, and high-resolution cameras that had been installed after the terror attack, police decided to install a smart camera and sensor system – not at the entrances to Har Habayis, but further back, and in an unobtrusive manner. Installation was set to take place in about six months, as the system was not ready – but infrastructure, including metal posts to hold the devices, were set up. Still Arabs, including the Palestinian Authority and the Waqf, demanded that that system not be installed – and overnight Wednesday, police removed the infrastructure, without making an announcement.

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