Record number of Jews mark Tisha B'Av on Temple Mount in tense Jerusalem
AHMAD GHARABLI (AFP)
Israel Police said that 1,043 Jewish visitors were permitted to visit the Temple Mount to mark the holy day of Tisha B'Av on Tuesday, a record high, although security forces ejected six visitors from the contentious site for "violation[s] of the rules."
Under the status quo that governs Muslim and Jewish access to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, Jews are prohibited from praying there, but are allowed to visit. It is the holiest site in Judaism, and third holiest site in Islam.
According to police, at the end of the visit of one Jewish group to the site, a quarrel broke out between Jewish and Muslim visitors. Police intervened and arrested three Jewish suspects and one Muslim man.
Thousands of Jews attended prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to observe the start of the Tisha B'av fasting day on Monday night, days after violence shook the city.
Prayer leaders read aloud from the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah's biblical account of the destruction of the First Jewish Temple by invading Babylonians in 586 BC.
The Western Wall is a remnant of the Second Jewish Temple, built on the site of the first and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Tisha B'av commemorates the destruction of both temples, as well several other disasters in Jewish history.
The event comes after relative calm returned to Jerusalem following days of violence. Palestinians refused to enter the site for nearly two weeks over new security measures Israel imposed after three Israeli Arabs shot dead two policemen nearby on July 14.
The crisis was ended when the authorities removed the newly installed measures, including metal detectors.
Meanwhile in Turkey, Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman A-Safadi condemned Israeli policy in Jerusalem, appearing to claim that Jews who visit the Temple Mount are trying to wrest control of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
"The numbers of extremists taking over Al-Aqsa is at an all-time high, not seen since that start of Israeli occupation in 1967," he said at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation conference of foreign ministers in Turkey, according to Ynet.
"The crisis is over, but many more and far more dangerous crises will erupt as a result of continued Israeli violations," A-Safada said.
"This will happen should Israel fail to uproot the sources of contention, the occupation remains in place and east Jerusalem fails to become the independent capital of a sovereign Palestine within the 1967 borders."
A previous version of this story said that non-Muslims were "banned" from the Temple Mount following scuffles. In fact, visiting hours for non-Muslims ended as normal. We apologize for the error.
(Staff with agencies)
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