JERUSALEM – A Palestinian Temple Mount leader with alleged links to Hamas has called on Arabs to flood the holy site next weekend to protect it from “Israeli protesters,” while a Jewish group is urging Jews to ascend the Mount en mass the same day.
The announcements come one day after an Israeli soldier who refused orders to participate in this month’s planned Gaza withdrawal killed four Arabs and wounded 19 others in a shooting attack, fueling tensions here and prompting Arab calls for revenge.
Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement, a Palestinian Temple Mount activist group, called on Arabs Friday to “defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque” Aug. 14, the day Jews commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples with a 25-hour fast.
The Western Wall, below the Mount, is usually particularly crowded the day of the fast, with several large Jewish prayer services taking place throughout the day and the night before. The Jewish worshippers traditionally do not ascend the heavily restricted Mount itself.
Salah, who was recently released from prison, has been accused by Israel of receiving funds from organizations related to terror groups, including Hamas. He said Friday, Muslims must defend Al Aqsa by outnumbering the Jews praying at the Western Wall below.
The Islamic Movement’s call for Palestinian protests coincides with an announcement by Revava, a Jewish Temple Mount group, for Jews to ascend the Mount Aug. 14 to hold a “massive prayer assembly for the rebuilding of our holy Temple on its historic site.”
David Ha’ivri, chairman of Revava, told WND, “The Muslims must understand that their rule over our holy place has come to an end and that the Jewish people will exercise our religious rights on the Temple Mount. We expect thousands of Jews to take part.”
It was unclear if Jerusalem police would allow the rally to take place. The police have previously banned some of Revava’s other protests, citing “security concerns.”
Revava last held a rally at the Western Wall April 10, after it announced plans to bring 10,000 Jews to the Mount, prompting counter-protests by Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and on the Temple Mount, and by more than 100,000 Muslims in Indonesia and several other Muslim countries.
Only about 200 Jewish protesters were allowed past intense security during the Revava rally and they did not ascend the Mount.
Ha’ivri expects a large turn out this time, partly because there will likely already be thousands at the Western Wall during the fast day.
“Also, over the last weekend, a number of Jewish Temple groups have joined our call and have posted ads in the newspapers calling for marches to the Temple gates and for prayer on the Temple Mount,” Ha’ivri explained.
The Temple Mount activity comes at a particularly heated time here.
In an act Israeli police are calling “Jewish terrorism,” Eden Natan Zada, 19, carried out a shooting attack against Arab passengers on a public Israeli bus in the northern Arab town of Shfaram on Thursday. Zada also was killed when he was assaulted by a mob of angry Arab bystanders and witnesses.
Zada was an Israeli Defense Forces soldier recently sentenced to jail time for refusing orders related to the Aug. 17 evacuation of Jewish communities in Gaza and parts of Samaria.
The attack elicited calls for Arab protests and revenge. Israeli Arabs Friday held a general strike. Hamas warned of possible retaliation. The Arab-Israeli Monitoring Committee, which includes leading Arab figures, stated, “A popular uprising against the fascism and negative treatment we receive is the most reasonable scenario.”
Relating the shooting to possible violence on the Temple Mount, Salah said, “This is not an isolated incident. It is the outcome of the Israeli discriminatory policy against the Arab residents of Israel. Last year the settlers said that they will carry a terrorist attack against the al-Aqsa mosque, and other mosques in Israel. This attack could be one of a series of planned terrorism against us.”
The Temple Mount was opened to the general public until September 2000, when the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshipers after then-candidate for prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the area.
Following the onset of violence, the new Sharon government closed the Mount to non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian traffic for fear of further clashes with the Palestinians.
The Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It still is open but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and not on any Christian, Jewish or Muslim holidays or other days considered “sensitive” by the Waqf, the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount.
During “open” days, Jews and Christian are allowed to ascend the Mount, usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or bring any “holy objects” to the site. Visitors are banned from entering any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission. Rules are enforced by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert nearby Israeli police to any breaking of their guidelines.