Police restrict entrance to Temple Mount prayers
For the second time in three weeks, Jerusalem police announced Thursday night that they were imposing restrictions on entry to Friday prayers at the Temple Mount, after receiving intelligence alerts over possible violence at the site.
The ban on all Muslim men under the age of 40 came several days after Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat again lashed out at the recent reentry of small groups of Jewish and Christian tourists, along with Israeli visitors, to the site, after nearly three years in which the area was completely off-limits to non-Muslims.
Arafat on Wednesday summoned the heads of the Jerusalem Wakf (Islamic religious trust) to discuss the situation on the Temple Mount, following the renewal of organized visits to the compound by non-Muslims.
On Tuesday, he summoned Arab ambassadors to the PA and foreign diplomats to his office later in the day to brief them on the situation.
Arafat reportedly urged them to pressure their governments into raising the issue with Israel and the US. He told them: "Jewish settlers and extremists are desecrating the Aksa Mosque by storming it under the protection of the Israeli police."
However, the Wakf's reaction has been more reserved, although they have expressed opposition to any "unilateral" decision by Israel on the matter. They have also denied allegations that the tours were coordinated with the Wakf in advance.