Thursday, July 20, 2017

IDF Reinforces Troops In West Bank For Friday Prayers, Israel And Palestinians Dig In Over Temple Mount Security, Israel Working With Jordan

IDF reinforces troops in West Bank for Friday prayers

With tensions high on and around the Temple Mount following last week’s terrorist attack, the army has placed five extra battalions on alert in the West Bank ahead of Friday prayers.

Police will also continue to secure the area along with the reinforcement of thousands of special police forces.

Should the situation change, the battalions may be released, the IDF said on Thursday.

The announcement that thousands of extra troops are being placed on call comes as security services gear up for expected clashes in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday amid expectations a large number of Muslim worshipers will try to make their way to the Temple Mount.

On Thursday afternoon, a Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank village of Tuqu near the settlement of Tekoa after he attempted to stab soldiers at a checkpoint.

No troops were hurt.

Last week’s terrorist attack on the Temple Mount left two police officers dead and resulted in the government placing metal detectors at the entrances to the site.

Clashes broke out in the West Bank on Wednesday after Fatah announced a “day of rage,” encouraging Palestinians to demonstrate against the metal detectors.

Palestinian Red Crescent reported three injuries from live fire near Kalandiya after dozens of youths who were marching toward the checkpoint near Ramallah began to throw stones at Israeli forces.

Israel claims the detectors are necessary to prevent further attacks, but worshipers and Arab states have condemned the move, claiming it constitutes a change in the status quo.

Under the status quo, Israel controls access to and security at the site, and Jordan – through the Wakf Islamic trust – administers activities inside the compound.

According to former Shin Bet head MK Yaakov Perry (Yesh Atid), while the “situation is very fragile and sensitive,” the placing of metal detectors does not constitute a change in the status quo.

“Every holy, sensitive place in the world is protected,” he said, adding that “there is no hermetic proof – not for intelligence and not for physical security means – but, after this terrorist act, I think the conclusion to tighten the security belt and add these electronic gates was not a political decision but purely a security one.” 

 Israelis and Palestinians dug in over new security measures at a contested Jerusalem shrine after a deadly attack there, as international efforts were underway to try and stave off a major conflagration after Muslim clerics called for mass protests at the site on Friday.

Israel's public security minister insisted Thursday that the metal detectors were essential to maintaining security, while Palestinians and Muslim religious leaders called for mass protests in the city if they are not removed.

Gilad Erdan told Israel's Army Radio that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will rule on the issue later in the day after he holds security consultations upon his return from a working visit to Europe. The Israeli security services are reportedly divided over what to do given the rising tensions surrounding the site. But Erdan rejected Arab accusations that new Israeli measures were an attempt to expand control over the site and insisted they were necessary to carry out proper security checks.

"The Israeli police needs these metal detectors so the security checks can give a proper response to the security considerations," he said. "I assume there are contacts internationally to try to calm the situation, but in my eyes there is no reason why the situation should not be calm."

Israeli security forces are on high alert ahead of Friday, the highlight of the Muslim religious week, when tens of thousands of Muslims typically attend prayers in the walled compound in Jerusalem's Old City. Muslim leaders have called for mass protests if the metal detectors are not moved before then.

Netanyahu said Israel is in close contact with Jordan, the traditional Muslim custodian of the shrine, to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Jordan's ruling Hashemite dynasty, with ancestry said to go back to Prophet Muhammad, derives much of its legitimacy from custodianship over the shrine. The White House has also called for tensions to be reduced.

Amid unconfirmed reports that Saudi Arabia and Israel have exchanged messages over tension on the Temple Mount following Friday’s attack there, government sources said Wednesday that Israel’s main interlocutors in trying to calm the situation are the Jordanians and the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke soon after the attack with both Jordan’s King Hussein and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to keep the situation from spiraling out of control.

Government sources said there has been constant contact between Israel and Jordan since, primarily being run out of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Turkey is also interested in gaining influence and a foothold on the Temple Mount, but Jerusalem has no interest whatsoever in using Ankara’s services. In March, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who characterized Israel as “racist,” called on Muslims to go en masse to the Temple Mound to identify with the Palestinians.

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