JERUSALEM—Widespread fears that recent tensions in Jerusalem would descend into violence proved largely unfounded on Friday. Protests by east Jerusalem residents, who are mainly Arabs, throughout the city on Friday were mostly peaceful.
Thousands of Israeli police were on high alert throughout the city. Most of them were stationed in and around the Old City of Jerusalem. They guarded every entrance to Haram a-Sharif where Muslims were on their way to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque.
Rumors that extremist religious Jews were planning to enter the mosque and pray there, which at one point in history was a Jewish temple, sparked calls to protect the mosque. According to local media reports, religious and nationalistic groups inside and outside Israel called for widespread popular uprising outside of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Gates to the Old City were heavily guarded during the day on Friday as thousands of Muslims streamed into the area for morning prayers at the mosque. There was also a heavy police presence inside of the walls of the old city, with numerous barricades blocking all side streets to Al-Aqsa. Only women, young children, and men over 50 were allowed to pass through to the mosque. Tourists, media, and those with Israeli IDs could enter the Old City, but not pass through to Al-Aqsa.
At Damascus Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City, dozens were turned away, including an Arab man who was just one month shy of his fiftieth birthday.
Following the end of morning prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque, large groups of men who were denied entry gathered outside the walls of the Old City in protest. At Damascus Gate, a group of about 150 men sat quietly and listened to a 20-minute speech calling for justice from Israel. There were no incidents following the speech, which was marked by a brief prayer before the crowd dispersed. Dozens of heavily armed Israeli police in riot gear stood nearby throughout.
Elsewhere in Jerusalem, small-scale riots broke out in the eastern part of the city. According to local media, about 12 police suffered minor injuries from stones thrown at them. Some police responded by firing rubber bullets. At least two Arab youths were arrested.