'Israel in contact with Jordan in bid to calm Temple Mount tensions'
Ahmad Gharabli (AFP/File)
Senior officials in Israel have been in contact with their Jordanian counterparts over the past two days in a bid to calm tensions at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
Israel has been sending messages directly to Jordan and via the US government, according to the report, and senior officials in Jerusalem have said that Israel does not intend to make any change to the status quo at the holy site.
Three days of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police started over the Jewish new year. Police staged raids over the three days to stop Muslim youths who had barricaded themselves inside the mosque from harassing visiting Jews, the Israeli authorities said.
Protesters threw stones and fireworks and security forces responded with stun grenades.
Jordan's king warned Israel on Monday that any further "provocation" in Jerusalem where Israeli police have clashed with Muslims at Al-Aqsa mosque would damage ties between the two countries.
"Any more provocation in Jerusalem will affect the relationship between Jordan and Israel" which have a 1994 peace accord but which has custodian rights over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, said King Abdullah II following a second day of clashes at the flashpoint holy site in east Jerusalem.
The mosque complex was calm Wednesday apart from a brief scuffle between police and members of the Waqf, the Jordanian-run organisation that administers the site.
The complex in Jerusalem's Old City is the site of frequent clashes.
The third-holiest site in Islam and home to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, it is also the holiest site in Judaism which venerates it as the Temple Mount.
Abbas criticizes Israel
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday criticized Israel for its handling of the latest round of violence at the site and insisted that "none of Jerusalem's holy sites belonged to Israel."
"They are all ours and we will not let them desecrate it with their filthy feet," he said during a visit to Jerusalem earlier in the day. "We will protect Jerusalem and will protect our Christian and Muslim holy sites. We will not leave our homeland. We will remain holding every atom of soil in this homeland."
Abbas praised Muslim worshipers who harass Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.
“Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah’s will,” he said.
Jews are allowed to visit but cannot pray there to avoid provoking tensions.
Israel seized east Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised internationally.
Muslim protesters fear Israel will seek to change rules governing the site, with far-right Jewish groups pushing for more access and even efforts by fringe organisations to erect a new temple there.
Netanyahu has repeatedly said he is committed to the "status quo", but Palestinians remain deeply suspicious.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the latest tensions were a result of "rumors and misinformation" among Palestinians.
"People are claiming that Israel wants to change the status quo" to enable Jewish prayer, he told reporters. "That's not true."
French President Francois Hollande warned in a phone call with Jordan's King Abdullah II that any change in the rules governing the compound could lead to "serious destabilisation".
And Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah urged US Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene to stop "recent Israeli violations against the Noble Sanctuary".
In Shuafat in east Jerusalem on Wednesday suspected Palestinians stoned the light rail system, and in Issawiya border policemen shot a Palestinian about to throw a firebomb at them, police said.
There was no immediate indication of his condition.
Likud members to visit Temple Mount
A group of members of the Likud Youth organization said that they plan to visit to the Temple Mount Thursday morning, in a controversial move that could spark even more tensions.
"Because of the events that were on Rosh Hashana, we want to strengthen our sovereignty at our holiest site," said Dor Harlap, one of the leaders of the Likud Youth and a candidate for the leadership of its council, according to The Jerusalem Post.
The group will not hold an illegal prayer session but will instead utter personal prayers silently, Harlap said.
"We made a similar visit when there were riots last year, and we knew we would be back," Harlap said, according to the Post. "We will pray in our hearts."
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