Thursday, April 07, 2005

This scary story in Thursday's Haaretz tells about a "High alert amid warnings of Temple Mount attack."
The Shin Bet security service has raised the level of alert in Jerusalem amid indications that extremist Jews are planning to carry out an attack on the mosques of the Temple Mount, and on the basis of new intelligence has beefed up police and security around the site in the heart of the Old City....

Police on Wednesday announced plans to close the Temple Mount compound to Jews on Sunday, when a right-wing extremist group called Revava was planning to hold a mass rally there. Police fear the activists could clash with Muslim worshipers. Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi have approved an operational plan meant to prevent Revava activists from holding the event. Police will prevent Jews from ascending to the mount Sunday, and will work to prevent any friction between Jews and Muslims in the Old City's alleys. Jerusalem's police chief, Ilan Franco, announced several days ago that Revava activists would not be allowed to enter the Temple Mount compound. The statement came after reports in the Arab media expressed dismay at intentions of Israeli authorities to grant the right-wing activists permission to approach the compound, revered as holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Channel One reported Wednesday night that these security concerns have been made known to the political echelon. The radical rightists apparently aim to attack the mosques in the hope that will disrupt the execution of the disengagement plan.

The secret service created a ranking from 1-10 with 10 being the highest security risk. Three months ago, the Shin Bet was ranking the security threat at 7, meaning that "there are signs of planning for an attack," and that there are activists "talking about what to do and as soon as possible." Now, however, the ranking has moved to an 8 - and it is based on much more solid information.... A senior security source said recently that the mosques of the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram el Sharif, have become a "hot topic" among radicals, on the assumption that an attack on the mosques would shock the Muslim world, drag Israel into a new war and prevent the disengagement. The source defined the chances of the threat against the mount being actualized as greater than the threat to the prime minister's life, where the security risk remains stable at 6, largely because of the difficulty of protecting the mount....

Jim Davila at Paleojudaica has been following this story much more carefully than I. It does sound dangerous. Before Israel's pullout from the Sinai Peninsula in the early 1980s there were plots by an armed Jewish underground to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount. They were caught before they could do anything - I hope that the Shin Bet will manage to catch these folks too, this time around. (The 2002 Israeli movie Time of Favor dramatized this story, adding [of course] a romantic plot to spice things up).

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