JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel issued restraining orders against several Jewish right-wing activists on Wednesday, restricting their movements over concern that they could try to disrupt a May 24-26 visit to the Holy Land by Pope Francis.
Francis will visit Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Israel during the trip, his first as pope to the region.
An Israeli police spokesman said police and the Shin Bet internal security service handed restraining orders to “a number of right-wing activists” whom they believed intended to cause “disruptions during the pope’s visit and be involved in provocative illegal acts”.
The spokesman declined to say how many activists received the orders. But he said they would not be allowed to enter certain areas “for security reasons” for four days.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said three Jewish youths would be barred from Jerusalem starting on Saturday. Two of the youngsters, it said, were students at a seminary near the Cenacle in Jerusalem, the traditional site of Jesus’s Last Supper where the pope will celebrate a Mass.
Haaretz reported last week that Israeli security services feared that Jewish radicals might carry out a major hate crime against the Christian population or institutions to drum up media attention during the Pope’s pilgrimage.
Last week, “Death to Arabs and Christians and all those who hate Israel” was daubed in Hebrew on an outer column of the Office of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Center in East Jerusalem.
Francis is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Notre Dame Center, which is Vatican property located just outside the walls of the old city, on the last day of his trip.
Chief Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said on Thursday he was not aware of any particular security concerns for any part of the visit. The pope, he said, would shun bulletproof vehicles during the trip and use a normal car so he could be as close to people as possible.The last papal journey to the Holy Land was by Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict, in 2009.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)