Fearing Palestinian unrest, Jerusalem police limit access to Moslem shrine
The Associated Press
Published: January 25, 2008
: Israeli police on Friday limited Palestinians’ access to Jerusalem‘s al-Aqsa mosque complex — Islam’s third-holiest shrine — fearing violent protest there against Israel‘s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said males under the age of 40 were barred from attending weekly Muslim prayers at the site, in the walled Old City, and extra officers were on duty.
“This is part of our precautions in light of the events in Gaza this week,” Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco told army radio. Rosenfeld said the increased police presence was also linked to the killing of a policeman and the wounding of a female officer by unknown gunmen Thursday night at the Shuafat Palestinian refugee camp, on the edge of Jerusalem.
Also Thursday, two Palestinians armed with knives and a pistol broke into the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion in an apparent attempt to kidnap Jewish seminary students there, stabbing three students before instructors at the institution shot the attackers dead.
Regional council head Shaul Goldstein said the instructors were veterans of the Israeli military and carried weapons, a common practice among settlers.
“Its an example of young men who had served in the army and were not afraid,” he told army radio. “The incident could have ended in kidnapping or murder of many people. Thank the lord it ended as it did.”
Relatives of the Palestinians named them as Mohammed and Mahmoud Sabarni, 21-year-old cousins from the nearby village of Beit Omar, who were active in the militant Islamic Hamas movement. Palestinian security officials said they two young men had been released from an Israeli prison just a week earlier, after serving a two-year sentence for attempting to snatch a weapon from a Kfar Etzion settler.
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, clubwielding Palestinian police were also out in force, to prevent unauthorized protest over the Gaza situation.
“Anyone who wants to express his opinion in a demonstration should obtain permission from the security forces to prevent any violent clashes,” Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki said.
On Tuesday, fist fights broke out between supporters of the rival Hamas and Fatah movements during a Hamas protest at Israel‘s Gaza sanctions.