Thousands Flock to Jerusalem's Western Wall

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JERUSALEM, Israel - An estimated 30,000 Jews flooded the Western Wall plaza Monday morning to take part in the priestly blessing for Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) at the Kotel.

Hundreds of border and municipal police were deployed throughout the narrow streets of Jerusalem's Old City, following more Arab rioting at the Temple Mount over the weekend.

Near the Lion's Gate, some 150 Arab youth pelted police with stones and bottles, lightly injuring two officers.

Jerusalem District Police Chief Aharon Franco closed the Temple Mount to visitors on Sunday evening and restricted Muslim men planning to pray at the site on Monday to those 50 and older.

"There's a degree of ungratefulness from the city's Muslim population after the police had worked to ensure peaceful prayers on the Temple Mount  throughout the [Islamic] month of Ramadan," the police chief said.

On Sunday evening, a police spokesman told reporters they were "taking no chances."

"A large police presence, which will continue with patrols throughout the alleyways of the Old City and surrounding east Jerusalem neighborhoods, will be felt on Monday as our forces continue to ensure the ongoing calm, which presided over the area by Sunday afternoon, remains that way," he said.

In a related incident, police arrested Sheikh Kamel Khatib, deputy head of the Islamic Movement, and Palestinian Authority head of Jerusalem Affairs Abdel Qader for alleged incitement to violence.

The court released both men on bail, but they were ordered to stay out of the Old City for 15 days.

Last Sunday on the eve of Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement), Muslim worshippers attacked a small group of French tourists visiting the Temple Mount with a police escort. Police used tear gas to dispel the rioters. About 30 people were injured in the riots, half of them police officers and half Arab Muslims.

Meanwhile, during a closed meeting last Tuesday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad accused Israel of "provocations" on the Temple Mount, warning that the situation there could further deteriorate.

Fayyad asked foreign ambassadors to submit official complaints to the Israeli government.

Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post

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