West Bank closure extended as Muslims called to Mount


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli army extended its closure of the West Bank as the Palestinian leadership called for Muslims to gather at the Temple Mount.

Israel sealed off the West Bank on March 11 at midnight for fear of Arab rioting. The closure was set to be lifted Saturday night but was extended until at least Tuesday.

The extension followed clashes over the weekend between Arabs and Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem.

Under the closure, Arab men under the age of 50 were prohibited from attending prayers last Friday on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In response, dozens of Arab youths rioted near the Damascus Gate. A soldier was injured and three Arab demonstrators were arrested.

Police used tear gas and stun guns to quell a riot by Palestinian youths at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in northern Jerusalem on Saturday.

Police believe that the long-scheduled rededication of the restored Hurva Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter scheduled for Monday could lead to more Arab rioting.

On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of the Jerusalem portfolio called on Palestinians to come barricade themselves in the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount beginning Monday. The Islamic movement also called for its followers to gather at the Temple Mount.

The call was in response to a request, denied by police, by rightists to hold a march in the area. The rightists also have threatened to lay a cornerstone for a Third Temple in Jerusalem.

During the closure, those who need to pass for humanitarian reasons, including medical patients on their way to Israeli hospitals, will be permitted to cross subject to the authorization of the Civil Administration, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

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