Police Preempt Arab Rioting on Har HaBayis

Israeli border police offices guard at the entrance to Har HaBayis. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Israeli police entered Har Habayis on Friday morning, after making numerous arrests Thursday night in order to prevent expected rioting. The arrests were made based on intelligence that numerous groups were planning to upset the public order after the announcement that President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan is to be published in the coming days.

There has been a marked increase in incitement to violence in recent days, with Arab preachers expressing strong dissatisfaction with the fact that dozens of world leaders visited Yerushalayim for the World Holocaust Forum Thursday. Hamas and Fatah had both threatened violence, and Israel warned both against taking actions to mar the event.

Now, in anticipation publishing of the Trump peace plan and the likelihood that it will not favor the Palestinian positions, unrest has been growing. Israeli security officials are preparing for unrest in Yehudah and Shomron as well as in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has rejected the Trump plan in advance and said that it would resist. Jordan is also expected to react in a hostile manner, possibly reducing the level of its diplomatic relations with Israel, if not cutting off relations altogether, security officials told Yisrael Hayom.

Last Friday, hundreds of Arabs threw rocks and shouted nationalistic slogans at police and Border Guards. Security forces responded with anti-riot measures, wading through crowds of some 8,000 Arabs to reach the riot point, next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Police chased Arabs into the mosque, firing off tear gas and using other anti-riot methods to quell the unrest.

Security officials said that the reason for the riot appeared to be an increase in the number of Jews ascending Har HaBayis. Gedolei Yisrael have forbidden Jews to enter the site at this time, due to issues of personal tumah and taharah. Jews who do enter the site are forbidden from praying, and in recent weeks several arrests have been made of Jews whose lips police observed moving. Officials said that the riot was likely set off by a preacher who incited the crowd during Friday morning services.