Riot police (archive)
Riot police (archive)Riot police (archive)

Thousands of police officers have deployed in Jerusalem Friday in advance of Muslim prayers on the Temple Mount. Police are on high alert following a week in which Muslims rioted in and around Jerusalem, as Muslim and Arab leaders accused Israel of attempting to harm the al-Aksa Mosque atop the Mount.

In an attempt to reduce the chance of riots, police have limited access to the Temple Mount to Muslims only - only females, or men who are under age 18 or over 50. In addition, only those with Israeli or Jerusalem identity cards will be allowed in, while foreign Muslims will be told to pray elsewhere.

Tensions remained high on Thursday. While relative quiet was maintained in Jerusalem's Old City, attacks on Jews were reported in the nearby neighborhood of Mei Shiloach (Silwan) and across Judea and Samaria.

Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Movement call to 'Defend Al-Aksa'

As Israel attempts to reduce tensions, Hamas, Fatah and the Israel-based Islamic Movement have each called on Muslims to “defend al-Aksa.” Hamas declared Friday a “Day of Rage” and called on followers to protest, while Fatah called for a general strike on Friday on behalf of the al-Aksa mosque.

Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of working with “Jewish extremists” by allowing them to enter the Temple Mount compound.

The Islamic Movement, an Israel-based Muslim organization that does not recognize Israel, has called for Israeli Muslims to arrive in Jerusalem for Friday prayers, and to ignore police limitations on the number or age of worshippers to be allowed in.

UN Called to Intervene

The Palestinian Authority has called on the United Nations to intervene in Jerusalem in order to prevent Israel from taking action regarding the Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount. PA officials, along with senior members of Fatah and Hamas, have accused Israel of planning to allow religious Jews increased access to the Mount.

PA minister Riyad al-Maliki relayed the request to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday during a visit to New York. “I informed him of the escalation of Israel's policy against Palestinians and against the al-Aksa Mosque,” he told AFP.

The PA and Muslim leaders have accused Israel of sparking Muslim riots in and around Jerusalem by allowing religious Jews – described in PA media as “extremist settlers” - to visit the Temple Mount.