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Daily Israel Report

Temple Mount Closed Due to Arab Riots

Jerusalem District Police have closed the Temple Mount to visitors for the next three days due to fears of rioting by Arab worshipers.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 3/14/2010, 9:51 AM / Last Update: 3/14/2010, 10:28 AM

Jerusalem District Police have closed the Temple Mount to visitors for the next three days due to fears of rioting by Arab worshipers.

Entry to the Al Aksa mosque by Muslim worshipers also continues to be limited; only males age 50 and up will be allowed access to the site. Female Muslims of all ages will be allowed to enter without restriction. The restrictions began on Friday, when Arabs began rioting in northern and eastern areas of the capital and intelligence alerts were received warning of a possible terror attack.

Dozens of Arabs rioted near the Damascus Gate when they were not allowed to reach the Temple Mount; police managed to calm the situation after they allowed the worshipers to pray near the gate. One IDF soldier was wounded, and seven Arab demonstrators were arrested in various disturbances around the capital, including near the Rockefeller Museum, at Lion's Gate, Ras-al-Amud neighborhood and Kalandia checkpoint. 

Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen warned Friday that Israel would “not allow disturbances,” but said it was “important to maintain an open channel of communication with all the parties involved in order to preserve the peace and make it possible for everyone to worship as they wish.”

The riots came one day after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden repeated in a speech at Tel Aviv University his harsh condemnation earlier in the week of a years-old plan to building 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood. Technical approval of the plan, part of routine processing, had been announced by the Interior Ministry at the beginning of the week in what was later acknowledged by Minister Eli Yishai to be "awkward timing," for which he apologized.  

"I realize this is a very touchy subject in Israel as well as in my own country," Biden told the TAU audience. "But because that decision, in my view, undermined the trust required for productive negotiations, I – and at the request of President Obama condemned it immediately and unequivocally... sometimes only a friend can deliver the hardest truth.”

The plan, which still must pass a 60-day public review process and then another committee review, is still years away from the construction phase, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later pointed out. Nevertheless, U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton lashed out at Netanyahu less than 24 hours after Biden's plane had left the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport.

Meanwhile, security personnel expressed concern that Sunday's dedication of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, restored to its former beauty after it was badly damaged by the Jordanians in the 1948 war, could set off another round of riots by Arab protestors.

Yehudah Glick, chairman of the Human Rights for the Temple Mount organization, noted that it was “sad that the police punish the victims and reward the violence – once again closing the Temple Mount to Jews on a holy day.”

Glick was referring to the fact that the site will also be closed to Jews on Tuesday, the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan and considered a holy day. “The police should bring in extra forces to ensure that the Mount remains open for everyone who is able to respect the site, and remove the radical, violent religious elements,” he said.