Israel has tightened security in the Temple Mount complex following the killing of two Israeli police last week by Israeli Arab gunmen in a terror attack that occurred in the location.
There have been nightly clashes at the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif, since the installation of metal detectors at entrances to the holy compound last weekend – a change to the status quo in the eyes of Muslim worshippers.
Thousands of police officers are on high alert around the Old City today in anticipation of violent riots. Israel has barred men under the age of 50 from the Temple Mount area after Palestinian leaders called for worshippers to flock there for Friday prayers and Hamas called for a ‘day of rage’.
The extra security measures have been deemed as a necessity by Israel after the weapons used to kill the policemen were smuggled into the holy site from the Muslim entrance. Security at the Muslim entrance to the site is far less rigorous than the non-Muslim entrance.
Checkpoints at the entrances to Jerusalem will also be bolstered, as well as police patrols in the alleyways of the Old City and on paths taken by Jewish and Muslim worshippers to the Temple Mount and Western Wall.
The Temple Mount complex contains the Dome of the Rock as well as the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism – it is where the two destroyed Jewish Temples were located.
Israel actively upholds the existing status quo, according to which non-Muslims can visit the Temple Mount at fixed times, but are not permitted to conduct any prayers.
Despite the centrality of the site for Jews, after capturing the Old City and reuniting Jerusalem in 1967, Israel left the administration of the Temple Mount under the authority of the Islamic Waqf council, and control is given to each religious authority over their respective holy sites.
The status quo agreement allows a small number of non-Muslims to visit the Temple Mount during restricted hours in between Muslim prayers, but only Muslims are allowed to pray there. Jews are currently only permitted to visit the site in small numbers, but are banned from praying at the site for fear it may provoke a violent response.