Israel restricts radical Jews ahead of pope's visit

2014-05-23 13:27
Israeli policemen send away an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man outside the Cenacle, or Upper Room on Mount Zion just outside the Old City of Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon, AFP)

Israeli policemen send away an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man outside the Cenacle, or Upper Room on Mount Zion just outside the Old City of Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon, AFP)

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Jerusalem - Fearing disruption by Jewish extremists when Pope Francis visits Jerusalem this weekend, police said on Friday they would issue restraining orders against 10 more activists, bringing the total to 15.

"Yesterday the head of the Jerusalem district mentioned that there would be a further 10," police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told AFP on Friday, without elaborating.

On Wednesday, Israel placed three young Jews under house arrest on suspicion they were planning to disrupt the pontiff's two-day visit to Jerusalem, which begins on Sunday.

Restraining orders were also imposed on two students from a Jewish seminary at Mount Zion, where on Monday the pope will celebrate a mass at the Upper Room where Jesus held the Last Supper.

"We have taken some pre-emptive steps to distance people who, according to intelligence received, were intending to disrupt the visit," Jerusalem police chief Yossi Pariente was quoted as saying by Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

"We have no intelligence about plans to harm the pope himself, but there are plans to embarrass the State of Israel or to disrupt public order during this sensitive visit."

Some 8 000 extra police officers are to be deployed on Jerusalem's streets for the duration of the visit.

Israel has been struggling to contain a wave of hate crimes by Jewish extremists targeting Palestinian and Arab property, which has included an increasing number of vandalism attacks on mosques and churches.

Although police have made scores of arrests, there have been no successful prosecutions, prompting widespread expressions of concern from Christian leaders.

On Friday, police said two Jerusalem men were detained for questioning after being caught putting up flyers "condemning Christianity and the pope".

Meanwhile in the West Bank, officials said around 3 000 members of the Palestinian security forces were to be deployed for Sunday's papal visit to Bethlehem.

A third of that number would be from the elite presidential guard of Mahmud Abbas, a spokesperson for the guard told AFP.

Among them would be guardswomen trained by France's National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, a special operations unit, he said.

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