Israel on alert
by: Sonja Pace - Last updated: 2005-04-08
Israeli officials have stepped up security in Jerusalem's Old City and warn of plans by Jewish extremists to attack the city's most sensitive holy site, which houses Al-Aqsa Mosque or Al-Haram Al-Sharif.
The Shin Beit security service has raised the alert level in Jerusalem. Police presence has been stepped up in and around the Old City and officials announced that the Temple Mount would be closed to Jews on Sunday.
The Temple Mount is the city's most sensitive holy site - revered by both Jews and Muslims. Israeli right-wing groups and opponents of the government's plan to disengage from Gaza say they'll hold a mass rally at the Temple Mount on Sunday.
Public Security Minister Gidon Ezra told Israel Radio Thursday, the police will be ready.
He said the police will have reinforcements and will not allow any provocations. He warned of possible violence between protesters and Muslims who have already warned that Jewish extremists plan an attack.
The Jewish extremist Revava movement is organizing Sunday's rally and its leader, David Ha'Ivri says no provocation is intended.
He says the Temple Mount is the heart of the nation, the Jewish national symbol and Jews should have a right to pray there. That's all we're asking, he says - as in any democratic country.
Right-wing groups have vowed massive protest actions to disrupt the upcoming Gaza withdrawal.
Muslim authorities have expressed fears that the extremists could try to attack the Temple Mount. Sheikh Abdallah Darwish, spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel says there are no synagogues atop the Temple Mount, only mosques and they belong to the Muslims.
Sheik Darwish says once the radicals are let in there will be no end to it. "We won't be able to control it," he warns. "It will be chaos."
Islamic leaders have called on their followers to go to the Old City to try to protect the holy shrine from attack by Jewish extremists.
Security officials fear a meeting of the two groups would spark instant clashes. Officials say any attack on the Temple Mount could have far-reaching consequences and could lead to widespread violence.
Story supplied by: VOAnews