Hundreds of Police and Border Police reinforcements have been deployed to Jerusalem to secure the city during the Jewish festival of Passover as 1043 visitors went up on the Temple Mount on Sunday, 158 of them Jews and the rest tourists.
Visitors were allowed to enter the Temple Mount complex in groups from the early morning hours until 11am.
Security forces are on high alert in light of Palestinian incitement claiming Israel is trying to change the status quo on the Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam.
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Verbal clashes erupted between Muslims and Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount on Sunday morning when Muslim worshipers shouted insults at the Jews.
In addition, 13 Jewish visitors, three of them minors, and a Muslim visitor have been detained and removed from the area after breaking the rules of the holy site that allows Jewish visits, but not worship.
Right-wing Temple Mount acivist Yehuda Glick, who survived an assassination attempt in October 2014, was among the Jews who visited the Temple Mount on Sunday. “The security forces are making an effort to ensure everything goes well, ” Glick said.
“Police have preemptively arrested Arab rioters who were planning to disrupt (Jewish visits) and create tensions. We mustn’t allow terrorism to dictate what we do. I have confidence that the security forces will thwart any attack attempt or any attempt at violence. The Temple Mount is a center for peace, not a center for war. It is appropriate that anyone who speaks of unity and peace should visit the Temple Mount. Those who have a different agenda should not come here, ” he continued.
In addition to the Old City, police officers have been stationed in crowded areas and shopping centers. The regular security deployment to Jerusalem and its surroundings has been expanded and security on major roads into the capital has also been increased. Meanwhile, several major roads in the capital will be closed off to vehicles Sunday-Wednesday from 7am to 8pm due to expected traffic.
Police forces had run-ins with Jewish groups on their way to the Temple Mount during the holiday itself as well. These groups planned to go on the Temple Mount with animals to perform the Passover sacrifice as part of an event organized by the right-wing Return to the Mount movement.
On Seder night, 10 Jews were detained in several different locations near the Temple Mount and four young goats were seized before they could be sacrificed. The suspects were taken for questioning at the police’s David Area station while the goats were taken to the Agriculture Ministry’s enforcement and investigations unit. One of the goats was found tied up and abandoned in the Old City, while another was found in a cardboard box carried by three of the suspects.
Every year on Passover, Jewish radicals are detained near the Temple Mount with animals in their possession that they intend to sacrifice. Police, who has been working to calm the volatile area, have warned prominent right-wing activists in advanced not to perform the sacrifice, and banned two of them, Rafael Morris and Yair Kahati, from Jerusalem during the holiday due to intelligence that they were planning to perform the Passover sacrifice. Morris was arrested in the Old City on Friday afternoon after violating the ban order imposed on him, and his remand has been extended by two days.
The Return to the Mount movement said the ban orders won’t stop them. “The Israel Police’s ban orders won’t deny us our right and duty to perform the Passover sacrifice at the appropriate time. We call on the people of Israel to come to the Temple Mount today and demand to be allowed to perform this immeasurably important commandment, ” the movement said in a statement.
Morris himself said that “the Shin Bet is investing all of its efforts in the Temple Mount activists, and the more they focus on the Jewish activists, the more they bolster terrorism and encourage the rioters on the Temple Mount.”