Jerusalem, Apr 14 (EFE).- Israeli security forces were on high alert for the fourth and last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with Palestinian Muslims expected to flock to the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem amid simmering tensions in the region.
Over 2,000 Jerusalem District police officers, MGB fighters and national reinforcements will operate and be deployed throughout the city of Jerusalem, a police statement said.
The security operation will focus on the occupied eastern side of the city and the narrow alleys of the Old City, while several routes leading to Jerusalem will be closed, the statement added.
On Thursday evening, hundreds of Palestinians started flocking to the Esplanade of the Mosques – the holiest place for Judaism and the third most important site for Islam – and some clashed with the police, according to Israeli media.
Tensions in the area have been running high since April 4 which saw bloody encounters between Israeli police and Palestinian Muslims who were at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for Ramadan prayers.
In an episode that sparked international outrage, footage shared online showed Israeli agents brutally beating Palestinians with their batons while hooded men launched fireworks from within the temple.
Since the Al Aqsa raid, tensions have rippled across the Gaza Strip and other areas in East Jerusalem.
A senior security official told Israeli media that security forces were prepared for the tense environment that consisted of “converging threats” as the nation grapples with both heightened regional tensions and a domestic political crisis that has triggered Israel’s largest protests in decades.
Military authorities claimed that Israel’s national security agency and defense forces had thwarted “numerous attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem” before and during the major Jewish holiday of Passover, which this year coincided with Ramadan.
Authorities closed airspace near Israel’s northern and southern borders for civilian flights on Friday as part of widespread security measures.
According to the country’s Airports Authority, flying within six kilometers of Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip will be prohibited until Sunday night.
Friday is also Iran’s so-called Quds Day, which is marked with speeches and events replete with state-sponsored anti-Israel rhetoric.
Israel is on high alert over possible attacks conducted by pro-Iranian and pro-Palestinian militias against Jewish targets abroad, but also cyber, rocket and drone attacks within its borders.
The Iron Dome missile defense system was on high alert, especially in the north, with several interceptors deployed and facing Lebanon and Syria.
In an effort to curb the escalating regional violence, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that Jews and other non-Muslims will not be allowed to visit the Temple Mount during the last 10 days of Ramadan, sparking anger among the government’s ultra-nationalist and orthodox ministers.
Saleh al-Arouri, a prominent leader of Hamas, the Islamist de-facto ruling group in the Gaza Strip, said on Thursday that “the entire Islamic nation is an axis of resistance, and it is on the rise.”
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is witnessing one of its deadliest years.
So far this year, 98 Palestinians, including 18 minors, have been killed in violent clashes with Israeli troops, while on the Israeli side, 19 civilians have died. EFE