Jerusalem, Apr 17 (EFE).- Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday said that he had given the country’s security forces a “free hand” to take appropriate measures to “ensure security for the citizens of Israel” amid the escalation of violence experienced over the past few weeks both in Israel and in the occupied West Bank.
“We are working to calm things down on the one hand and are taking vigorous action against violent individuals on the other. The security forces are ready for any scenario,” said Bennett after meeting with his security cabinet after violence broke out in Jerusalem.
After a wave of attacks, raids and clashes – in which as many as 39 people have died – Bennett on Sunday met with top Israeli security and intelligence officials to evaluate the “operational situation” after the confrontations on Sunday reached Jerusalem.
According to Israeli police, hundreds of Palestinian youths had been gathering and storing rocks in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to use in clashes with security forces try and prevent non-Muslims from touring the compound.
The clashes on Sunday between Palestinians and Israeli police resulted in 19 people injured, but on Friday the violence in the area lasted for six hours and resulted in injuries to 152 Palestinians and three Israeli security officers, along with 400 arrests.
Bennett emphasized that efforts must continue to allow members of all religions to celebrate their various religious holidays in the Old City, given that the celebrations coinciding with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Christian Holy Week and Easter and Jewish Passover all are occurring at this time.
The main Palestinian factions – with the support of various countries within the Arab world – demand that the status of the Al-Aqsa complex that has prevailed since 1967 be respected, meaning that the zone remain the exclusive province of Muslims, while the revered area among people of the Jewish faith is near the Wailing Wall.
However, there are more and more Jews who have been lining up to visit the zone – which, for them, is known as the Temple Mount – to pray, a situation that outrages many Palestinians who believe that religious freedom is being used as a political weapon so that Israel can control more areas in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.
Bennett ordered security increased for the tourist buses heading to the Old City after two Palestinians were arrested on Sunday for hurling rocks at them, slightly injuring five people.
The prime minister also issued instructions to security forces to pursue anyone disseminating fake news, including edited clips of videotaped violence against the Muslim faithful to fan the flames of unrest and outrage in the area and disrupt the routine activities surrounding Ramadan.