Moslem worshipers allowed to return to Temple Mount

October 13, 1990|By Robert Ruby | Robert Ruby,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun

JERUSALEM -- After imposing strict controls on access, Israeli police allowed Moslem worshipers to return yesterday to the Temple Mount for regular weekly prayers and refrained from interfering when the worshipers briefly chanted slogans.

Soldiers and police set up a series of administrative hurdles to prevent all but the most determined Palestinians from reaching Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, the site of the clash Monday in which police shot and killed 19 Palestinians and wounded more than 140 others while trying to stop stone-throwing.

In continuing Arab protests over Monday's violence, two Palestinians were reported killed on the West Bank yesterday.

Meanwhile, Israeli newspapers criticized the three-member panel appointed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to investigate Monday's shootings, reporting that religious reasons would prevent two of its members from actually visiting the Temple Mount.

Most Orthodox Jews observe a Rabbinic injunction that forbids them from visiting the Temple Mount to avoid walking upon the remains of the Second Temple that Jewish law explicitly reserves for the ancient Jewish priesthood.

The inquiry is headed by Zvi Zamir, who from 1968 to 1974 was head of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.

The other members, both of them orthodox, are Chaim Kubersky, a former director-general of the Interior Ministry, and Yaacov Neeman, a former director-general of the Finance Ministry.

Members of the panel lack authority to compel people to testify,

and its findings will have no legal basis in Parliament or in the courts. It remains unclear whether the panel will attempt to interview Palestinians who were on the Temple Mount, or restrict its efforts to interviewing police.

Yossi Ahimeir, a spokesman for Mr. Shamir's office, was quoted in press reports as saying that the inquiry was not intended to assess blame for the clash. "We are not looking for ways of punishing people but want to know what lessons the police can learn to make it perform better if faced with such incidents in the future," he said.

Authorities manned checkpoints outside Jerusalem, at the gates of the Old City and at the entrance to the Temple Mount itself to stop men under the age of 45 from reaching the mosque.

Police recorded the identity card numbers of the men it allowed to pass, and a police helicopter hovered over the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, which was virtually deserted by Jewish worshipers.

Only about 1,000 people were admitted to the Temple Mount, where some of the men and women filed out after chanting "Allahu Ahkbar," God is Great.

Police have banned indefinitely the presence at the Temple Mount of residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Large parts of those areas remained under curfew, while Palestinians kept businesses closed during the fourth day of a general strike.

Outside the Old City, police used water cannons to disperse about 150 Palestinian men, while several protest marches wound through the streets of East Jerusalem.

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