One of Jerusalem’s most revered holy sites is once against at the center of an escalating dispute between Palestinians and Israeli forces, with neither side intent on backing down, and fears rising of serious and sustained unrest on the city’s streets.
Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces around the Old City of Jerusalem and at West Bank checkpoints on Friday over access to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, a plateau that is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The contested site has periodically been at the center of heightened tensions in Jerusalem, but this episode has now spilled into bloody confrontation. Israel Radio reported Friday that almost 200 Palestinians had been injured in clashes with Israeli forces, and according to Ha’aretz three Palestinians have been killed.
The current situation came about after three Arab citizens of Israel orchestrated a deadly shooting attack on Israeli police stationed at the holy site on July 14, killing two of them. The three attackers were swiftly killed, but Israeli district police proposed putting in metal detectors to boost security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his public security minister gave it their OK.
What might be viewed as a local policing decision elsewhere in the world was in this tinderbox of a city treated as an unacceptable infringement on the rights of Muslims to visit the compound. Violent protests followed; on Friday, Israeli forces turned back countless busloads of people who tried to reach the Old City to enter the site, whether as worshippers, protestors or both. Israel also instituted a policy in which all men under 50 were barred from entering the compound.
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