JERUSALEM, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- The Israeli Cabinet approved a law Monday increasing punishment for rock-throwers, as tensions at Jerusalem's Temple Mount increased over the weekend.
The Cabinet measure calls for prison terms of up to 20 years for those convicted of throwing rocks at vehicles, and it's predicated by recent anti-Israel demonstrations at a religious site considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians. Predictions that a protest Sunday would erupt into a Palestinian intifada, or uprising -- the first in 10 years -- were discouraged by heavy rains and a large Israeli police presence at the temple mount.
The tension is marked by almost daily outbreaks of stone-throwing by Palestinians, which are returned by police with tear gas, rubber bullets and jail detention. The tension between Palestinians and Israelis was heightened in October after a growing number of Israeli settlers moved into the Jerusalem's predominately Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, a Palestinian driver veered into passengers leaving a railroad car and killed a baby and the shooting of a right-wing rabbi by a Palestinian who was shot and killed immediately after.
The rabbi, Yehuda Glick, has argued for a Jewish place of worship at Temple mount. Muslims suspect their eventual eviction from the Al-Aqsa mosque, also at the site.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said camera-equipped surveillance balloons would soon be deployed to monitor the protests, and police responded to Glick's shooting by closing the mosque for a day, the first time in 14 years, and adding additional police.
The Palestinian Authority referred to the closure of the mosque as a "declaration of war," and concern mounted it could spark a chain of events leading to serious conflict.