Police Prevent Clash on Temple Mount As Tempers Flare Prior to Baker Visit

Vigilant police prevented a possible clash between Arabs and Jews on the Temple Mount on Sunday, only hours before U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s expected arrival in Jerusalem.

Sunday was Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which is a fast day for observant Jews mourning the destruction of the Second Temple and other Jewish tragedies.

A militant Jewish group known as the Temple Mount Faithful attempted to enter the compound, which is now the site of Islamic shrines where Jews are not permitted to worship.

Police stopped them at the Mughrabi Gate, the entrance to the mount.

The group prayed, read from the Book of Lamentations, made insulting remarks about Baker and about an Israeli judge, Ezra Kama, and dispersed without incident.

Judge Kama published a report last Thursday critical of the conduct of the police in the so-called Temple Mount riots of last Oct. 8.

On that occasion, rumors that members of the Temple Mount Faithful were about to invade their shrines stirred Arabs to throw rocks at Jews praying at the Western Wall below the mount.

Regular and riot police opened fire on the rock-throwers, killing 17 and wounding scores more. But the judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against anyone.

The authorities feared that extremist groups on either side might use the issue to cause trouble during Baker’s visit.

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