Forces on high alert in Jerusalem for Friday Ramadan prayers after Tel Aviv attack
Security forces in Jerusalem were on high alert ahead of prayers at the Temple Mount for the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, after the deadly terror attack in Tel Aviv the night before.
Over 100,000 worshipers are expected to visit the holy site in the Old City, with both police and IDF deploying additional forces across Jerusalem.
Ahead of the prayers, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a situational assessment with security officials.
The precautions come after 13 people were killed in four terror attacks over the past two weeks, the deadliest period since the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.
The attacks included a shooting Thursday night in which two people were killed and numerous others wounded after a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on a bar in central Tel Aviv.
While last week’s prayers on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount passed without special incident, daily clashes have erupted between Palestinians and security forces near the Old City’s Damascus Gate since the start of Ramadan last weekend.
Despite the recent attacks, Israel has decided not to limit attendance at Friday prayers at the Temple Mount’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Temple Mount is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims. The site is revered by Jews as their holiest site, where both Jewish Temples stood and is the third holiest site in Islam.
At last week’s cabinet meeting, the heads of the various security agencies reportedly urged the government not to reverse plans aimed at calming tensions around Ramadan, after some ministers suggested Israel place the West Bank in lockdown or take other measures to restrict Palestinian access to Jerusalem’s Old City.
Police predicted that any reversal on already announced plans would spark more unrest, the Kan public broadcaster reported, though the report also said that police signed an order banning certain Hamas members from visiting the Old City and other areas of Jerusalem during the holy month.
Last May, tensions around Ramadan and Jerusalem escalated into an 11-day war with the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers and the worst internecine clashes in decades between Jewish and Arab Israelis.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who spoke with Bennett this week, has also warned that calm will only be maintained so long as access for Muslims at the Al-Aqsa Mosque is not curtailed during Ramadan.