JERUSALEM (May. 15)
The Temple Mount was the scene of violent disturbances over the weekend as Israelis celebrated the 21st anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem amid massive security precautions.
Four police officers and 12 Arabs were injured when rioting broke out Friday following noon prayers on the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock, Islam’s third holiest site, and the Al-Aksa mosque are located. No one was critically hurt. Nineteen suspects were arrested.
The police station on the Temple Mount came under a hail of stones as throngs of worshipers left the mosques. Israeli and American flags were burned. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.
Several hundred Arabs armed with stones and sticks were chased by the police anti-terrorist squad. They took refuge in the Al-Aksa mosque, where police were loathe to pursue them.
But the inspector general of police, David Kraus, warned that in the future, ways would be found to “evacuate those who attack the security forces.”
About 3,300 police officers were deployed in East Jerusalem to prevent disorder. Serious trouble was expected on Sunday, which is the anniversary of the city’s reunification.
This year the date coincides with the 40th anniversary of Israel’s independence, according to the Western calendar. It is traditionally a day of mourning among Palestinian Arabs. But by midday, nothing out of the ordinary was reported.
KACH ACTIVISTS RESTRAINED
Police prevented activists in Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach party from reaching the Temple Mount area Sunday. Another militant group, the Temple Mount Faithful, marched around the area three times, praying for the “fall of the walls of Arab hatred.”
In Hebron, security forces prevented marching Jewish settlers from reaching the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Their presence at the site holy to Moslems and Jews alike was considered likely to cause trouble in the tense atmosphere.
A car driven by Jewish settlers was stoned in the town of Anabta, near Nablus. The car was set on fire after the settlers took refuge in another car. The army clamped a curfew on Anabta.
A general strike was in effect in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the weekend, but the territories were generally quiet. Curfews remained in effect in Nablus and in the Dehaishe refugee camp.
Palestinians in the territories were preparing for the three-day Id El Fitr holiday, which began Sunday. It concludes the holy month of Ramadan.
Schools in the territories, which have been closed for the past three months as a security measure, may be allowed to reopen after the holiday, provided that the situation is quiet.
The security authorities believe the time may be ripe to normalize life in the territories. The Palestinian underground leadership also has called for a resumption of school studies before the entire school year is missed.