Yerushalayim On High Alert After Hamas Announces ‘Day of Rage’

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yerushalayim-hamasWarnings of widespread violence in Yerushalayim on Monday proved to be unneeded, but police say the real test will be today. Hamas announced a “day of rage” in response to the dedication of the restored Churvah Shul in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, police said. Large forces will continue to be deployed throughout the city, with 3,000 police and border police officers stationed in East Jerusalem and neighboring villages.

Limitations on access to Muslim prayers on the Har Habyis will continue for the fifth day. Members of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee are set to hold a procession in the east of the city on Wednesday.

Yerushalayim on Monday was tense but quiet. Around noon, Palestinians began throwing stones near Har Hazeisim, but no injuries were reported.

At 6 P.M., scores of youths hurled stones at Border Police troops from the Palestinian side of the Qalandiya crossing, north of Yerushalayim. The youths were dispersed, and the crossing closed.

Some stone throwing was also reported in the Silwan neighborhood. A general strike called in the Old City for noon largely failed to materialize, as most businesses remained open as usual.

Police on Monday attributed the relative quiet to the limitations placed on entry to the Har Habyis and to the extensive police work. Palestinian commentators said Monday the general Palestinian public seems to disapprove of the leadership’s attempts to fan the flames.

The quiet does not appear to have been affected by attempts of senior Hamas and Fatah officials to ratchet up the violence. On Sunday, Fatah’s Mahmoud Dahlan and Hatem Abdelkader called on residents of East Jerusalem and Israeli Arabs to arrive and defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee chairman Yasser Abed Rabo called on Israel to refrain from dedicating the Hurva synagogue. Hamas, too, warned of bloodshed if the synagogue is dedicated, and similar warnings have been made by Egyptian and Jordanian diplomats.

At Monday’s dedication ceremony, Prime Minister Netanyahu used his prerecorded video message to reach out for reconciliation with the Muslim world.

“I know many are moved by this moment, and rightly so. But we’re not the only ones moved by our faith. We have enabled adherents of other religions to restore their places of worship as well. We proudly uphold our heritage, we have returned to our cities, and we also give the same freedom of worship to other religions,” Netanyahu said. “The people of Israel maintain their heritage and through that maintain the heritage of others.”

The dedication ceremony of the synagogue, destroyed by the Arab Legion in the War of Independence and completely restored over the last five years, went on as planned, though near-unprecedented security measures were in play.

Tensions Monday were fanned by rumors in the Palestinian street that Jews intended to march on the Har Habayis after the ceremony.

Mayor Nir Barkat, who spoke at the ceremony, also attempted to ease Palestinian anxiety, saying that “I want to send a message of peace to all religions. I believe that precisely because we have twice experienced the pain of seeing our holy place destroyed, we, the sovereigns, know and will know to preserve and respect the places of worship of other faiths. We will remember to be sensitive to their fears and needs.”

Housing Minister Ariel Atias used the occasion to stress construction in Jerusalem will continue. “We have thousands of housing units in 2010, and no government has allowed a dialogue about the right to build in Jerusalem,” the minister said. “I want to say to our neighbors, we respect your religion, you respect ours. In this synagogue, they have prayed and will pray for peace, three times a day.”

{Haaretz/Yair Israel}


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