The announcement came after Defense Minister Benny Gantz conducted a security situation assessment with senior military, police and Shin Bet officials.
At the end of the meeting, the IDF said there would be an increase in the number of troops as part of the preparations for a possible escalation.
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“Extremists on both sides cannot be allowed to escalate the situation,” Gantz said in a statement. “Israel will continue to act to preserve freedom of worship on the Temple Mount and at the same time, will not allow terror to lift its head or interfere with public order.”
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai also carried out a “special” security assessment in light of recent tensions in Jerusalem.
According to a police statement, Shabtai ordered commanders, particularly in the Jerusalem area, to “significantly” boost their forces ahead of the holiest night of Ramadan on Sunday night and “another series of events expected in the days. to come up”. This apparently referred to Jerusalem Day, a national holiday that also begins Sunday evening, during which Israel celebrates the unification of Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city.
“I stress here that the right to demonstrate will be preserved but that the riots will receive a firm response and without tolerance. I call on everyone to act with responsibility and restraint, ”Shabtai said in the statement.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Israeli Arabs were due to stage mass protests on Saturday following the violence in Jerusalem on Friday evening.
Saturday saw at least six fires in southern Israel caused by balloons carrying incendiary devices. No injuries or dangers were reported in neighboring towns.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks during a ceremony at Kirya army headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
The protests were to take place amid heightened tensions following Friday’s clashes in Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli police.
There were widespread clashes and riots in the Al-Aqsa compound following prayers held there on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Footage from the scene showed pitched battles, with Palestinians throwing chairs, shoes, rocks and bottles and firing fireworks, and police responding with stun grenades, tear gas and bullets. rubber.
Security forces arrested at least 13 people in East Jerusalem on Saturday morning on suspicion of involvement in the riots, the Palestinian news site Wafa reported.
Initial reports indicated that further arrests had taken place in the afternoon. A spokesman for the Jerusalem police could not be reached for comment.
The official media outlet for the terror group Hamas said Gaza-based groups called for demonstrations on Saturday near the border fence with Israel to protest Israeli actions in Jerusalem.
According to the Ynet news site, protesters were believed to clash with IDF troops during the border protests, with comparisons to the violent March of Return protests.
A report by the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, quoted by the public broadcaster Kan, said that Palestinian factions in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip planned to reactivate the so-called “night confusion units” which riot along the road. security fence.
Riot units are said to be in addition to the increase in incendiary balloons launched from the strip – in recent days, more than a dozen fires have broken out in the Gaza border area.
Hamas has rejected a message sent by Israel via Egyptian mediators calling for preventing further escalation of violence and potential deterioration into a full-scale conflict, a Lebanese newspaper reported on Saturday.
According to the report, Hamas replied that “events on the ground” showed that Israel did not want a de-escalation and that a truce between the parties was therefore unlikely in the near future.
Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh said on Friday that Israel would “pay a price” for the clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. The peak it sits on is the world’s holiest place for Jews as the site of the two biblical temples – making it a flashpoint of nationalist sentiment and violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group that often fires rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory, has also threatened Israel over the Al-Aqsa clashes.
Additionally, the Arab High Follow-up Committee, a body that represents Arab Israelis, has called for protests in Arab towns across the country in response to the violence.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that at least 205 Palestinians were injured in clashes across Jerusalem on Friday, mainly around the Temple Mount and near the Damascus Gate. Eighty-eight Palestinians were hospitalized, mostly for injuries from steel bullets covered with rubber, he said.
About half of the injured Israelis have been hospitalized, with one officer in moderate condition after being hit on the head with a stone.
Anger escalated on Saturday with the release of a video in which a stun grenade is seen exploding inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, after it was apparently thrown into the building by Israeli security forces.
Exceptional documentation: Police fire a stun grenade * inside * the covered mosque of the al-Aqsa mosque. pic.twitter.com/HJva6y96gM
– Suleiman Masada SuleimanMas1 (@ SuleimanMas1) May 7, 2021
In a second video, apparently filmed earlier on Friday, a border police officer was seen throwing a stun grenade at a crowd including children.
Documentation of the evening in the old town: a policeman throws a stun grenade at children and women. pic.twitter.com/lXI9iipKeL
– Suleiman Masada SuleimanMas1 (@ SuleimanMas1) May 7, 2021
Call for calm
The United States said on Saturday it was “extremely concerned” by the events in Jerusalem, calling on officials on all sides to defuse tensions.
“It is absolutely essential that all parties exercise restraint, refrain from any acts of provocation and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount – in word and in practice,” the State Department said in a statement. “Leaders from all walks of life must speak out against all acts of violence.”
At the same time, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Saturday, saying “Israel must end all measures that undermine the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The ministry added that “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing ones, the expropriation of land or the expulsion of Palestinians – this is a violation of international law and reduces the chances of reaching a two-way solution. States, ”the Ynet news site reported.
Tensions have been mounting in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza for several weeks.
Earlier on Friday, three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on border police troops in the northern West Bank. Two of them were killed in the shooting and a third was seriously injured. Israeli military officials said the three men were on their way to carry out a “major” terrorist attack on civilians inside Israel, with reports indicating that they were heading for Jerusalem.
Israeli yeshiva student Yehuda Guetta was shot dead in a Palestinian terror attack in the West Bank on Sunday before dying of his injuries Wednesday evening.
Hours later, Israeli security forces arrested a suspect for his murder.
That same evening, 16-year-old Palestinian teenager Said Odeh was shot dead by Israeli forces who said he was throwing Molotov cocktails at the troops.
In recent days, Palestinians have staged protests in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. More than 70 Palestinian residents are threatened with deportation and could be replaced by right-wing Jewish nationalists, in a legal battle waged in the courts.
An Israeli court ordered the families to leave because the property belonged to a Jewish religious association before 1948. A 1970 Israeli law allows Jews to recover property in East Jerusalem before it falls into Jordanian hands; no similar law exists for Palestinians.
Palestinians and their supporters protested every evening against the evictions underway over the past week. Police sought to disperse the protests with sound grenades and water cannons, resulting in injuries and arrests.
The families have asked the Israeli Supreme Court to consider an appeal, which it is expected to do on Monday.
In addition, at the start of Ramadan, Palestinians repeatedly clashed with Israeli police in Jerusalem to protest restrictions in the Damascus Gate area. Some videos have also circulated on Palestinian social networks showing young Arab men attacking ultra-Orthodox passers-by.
In response, hundreds of Jewish extremists marched through downtown Jerusalem chanting “Death to the Arabs”. Others randomly attacked Palestinians across the city. This then led to serious clashes between police, Jews and Arabs in the city.
There were also growing concerns that tensions in Jerusalem would escalate on Sunday night, Laylat al-Qadr, the holiest night of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Worshipers will gather for nightly prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Sunday evening is also the start of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday during which Israel celebrates the unification of Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city.