JERUSALEM, Israel – By mid-afternoon, Israeli police reported that Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount had ended peacefully.
“Police units [are deployed] in and around the city of Jerusalem to prevent and respond to any incidents,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said by statement. “Thousands of people gathered on the Temple Mount for Friday prayers. No incidents occurred as age was restricted over the age of 50 and women of all ages. Security measures continue.”
Muslim visitors who entered the site after receiving permission from the Palestinian Authority and Islamic religious leaders began rioting almost immediately.
Police officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to subdue the rioters. The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency rescue brigade reported that 100 demonstrators were injured in the melee.
Late Thursday evening, officers removed people who had planned to sleep at the site and join “demonstrations” on Friday. Officers arrested several visitors for causing disturbances there, the Israel Police Spokesman’s Office reported.
In the end, police decided to impose age limitations for men (50 or older) attending Friday prayers, while there are restrictions on women.
“Security assessments were made and there are indications that disturbances and demonstrations will take place today [Friday],” the report advised. “Due to this assessment, there is an age limit on the Temple Mount.”
In preparation to handle potential attacks, police closed access to a number of roads around the Old City, promising to respond to disturbances of any kind there. Additional units have been deployed where needed.
Jerusalem Police Chief Yoram Halevi reiterated that security forces will respond forcefully to any disturbances, citing Israel’s responsibility for maintaining security on the Temple Mount.
Halevi said anyone who tries to disturb the peace, harm police or citizens should not be surprised at the response.
“Don’t test us because we know how to respond, and we know how to respond directly and forcefully,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Abul Gheit, head of the Arab League, said Israel is “playing with fire” that could spark a religious war that could “shift the core of the conflict from politics to religion.”
Gheit made his remarks in a televised speech from Cairo where Arab foreign ministers were summoned to an urgent meeting, Arutz Sheva reported, quoting AFP.
“I invite the occupying state to carefully learn the lessons from this crisis and the message it holds,” Gheit reportedly said, adding that “not one single Muslim in the world would accept the desecration of the al-Aksa Mosque.”
Member nations condemned “in the strongest terms” Israel’s efforts “to Judaize the occupied city of Jerusalem and distort its Arab and Muslim character.”
“East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state,” the minister declared, saying they reject and condemn “all measures by the occupying force to diminish Palestinian rights of sovereignty over it.”
This article originally appeared on CBN News, July 28, 2017, and reposted with permission.