The Israeli army has deployed reinforcements in the occupied West Bank in anticipation of possible demonstrations against the new Israeli security measures at the entrance of the Mosque esplanade in Jerusalem, a military official said Thursday.
Palestinians denounce the installation of metal detectors at the entrances to the esplanade, the third holy place of Islam. This measure was taken following the killing on Friday of two Israeli policemen by three Israeli Arabs who were then shot. The police said the attackers were coming from the Mosque esplanade.
To protest against the installation of the detectors, the Muslim faithful pray since Sunday outside the esplanade, at the call of the Palestinian religious authorities. Clashes between demonstrators and police forces occur sporadically.
As Friday’s prayer approaches – usually between 20,000 and 30,000 faithful – the Israeli media have reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could withdraw these detectors to avoid riots.
For its part, the army announced that five additional battalions had been placed on alert in the occupied West Bank. The decision to keep them thus mobilized throughout the weekend will be taken later, a military official told AFP. However, members of the majority are pressing for Benjamin Netanyahu not to yield.
“Giving into Palestinian pressure would be a blow to Israeli deterrence and endanger the lives of visitors, worshipers, and security forces on the Temple Mount,” said Naftali Bennett, Minister of Education And head of the Jewish Home, a religious nationalist party.
The Esplanade of the Mosques is also revered by the Jews as the Temple Mount. It is built on the site of the Jewish Temple destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 and whose only vestige, the Wailing Wall, is located below.
After the attack on Friday, the esplanade had been exceptionally closed before being reopened on Sunday with the installation of the porticos.
Netanyahu says he does not intend to change the tacit rules of a status quo that allow Muslims to climb at all hours on the esplanade and Jews to enter at certain hours but without being able to pray there.
But the decision to close the esplanade Friday and Saturday has revived Palestinian fears that Israel will take exclusive control of the site.