After yet another round of Palestinian riots and rock-throwing erupted on the Temple Mount this week, Police announced on Tuesday that the holy site would be closed to all non-Muslim tourists for three days in order to “maintain the quiet on the mount and to prevent rioting”, said Jerusalem District Police spokesperson Luba Samri.
According to Islamic officials, the recent riots were provoked when Israel allowed tourists, including Jews, to enter the Temple Mount compound, a breach of the usual tradition which limits visitation rights to Muslim worshippers during the last ten days of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. The final ten days, which began on Sunday, are considered to be the most solemn for Muslims and therefore a time of heightened sensitivity.
As visitors began to arrive at the Temple Mount earlier this week, “Muslim youths, some of them masked, began to throw at the forces stones they had gathered in advance and piled up inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” police said. Security forces also fell under direct attacks from fireworks.
The various objects used by the Palestinian rioters were “intended as a confrontation with police and security forces, to prevent them closing the doors and to disrupt the regular visits to the Temple Mount” according to police.
Though police forces had thus far managed to maintain control, on Tuesday one of the stones thrown by the rioters struck an elderly Jewish woman at the Western Wall plaza which is overlooked by the mount. The 73-year-old suffered minor injuries and was immediately treated on site.
This “last straw” incident influenced the Jerusalem police to close the Temple Mount to all non-Muslim visitors until Friday. “After assessing the situation this morning, the Jerusalem District Police decided that the Temple Mount will be closed today to visitors,” Samri said in a statement on Tuesday. “Likewise, it was decided that the mount will be closed to visitors also on the coming Wednesday and Thursday.
Extra forces have also been deployed in order to restore relative calm to the religious site. “Any disruption will be dealt with firmly,” Samri emphasized.
“The police are continuing ongoing dialogue with the local leadership and the Waqf, and is demanding from them to prevent any disruption in arrangements on the mount and to preserve the peace,” Samri said.
The tense situation is now “under control” according to a police spokesman.
Muslim visitors, meanwhile, will continue to have unlimited access to the site, which is considered the third holiest in Islam.