Bennett rolls back Temple Mount ‘religious freedom’ call
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Bennett rolls back Temple Mount ‘religious freedom’ call

Israeli prime minister’s office says he ‘misspoke’ when he said Jewish freedom of worship within the holy compound should be maintained

Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett denied claims a decades-old ban on Jewish prayer atop the Temple Mount was being rolled back after hundreds of worshippers visited for Tisha B’Av.

Some visitors on Sunday were seen reciting scripture on the compound without intervention from Israeli police.

In previous years Jews have been allowed to visit but not pray at the holy site, with officers enforcing the ban by searching visitors for pocket psalm books.

The Temple Mount is known to Muslims as Haram esh-Sharif and hosts the al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

There were brief clashes earlier on Sunday between Israeli police and Muslim worshippers opposed to the Tisha B’Av visits.

No serious injuries were reported in what police described as stone throwing early in the day by several Palestinian youngsters who it said were then dispersed.

Palestinian officials said police forcefully evacuated Muslim worshippers to clear the way for the Jewish visitors and fired rubber-coated bullets.

The visit of over 1,600 Jews, most of them Orthodox, was mostly peaceful, prompting Bennett to thank police for “maintaining freedom of worship for Jews on the Mount”.

But the prime minister’s office said he had misspoken by suggesting both Muslims and Jews should have freedom to worship at the holy site.

It added the religious status quo would remain in place at the site, the Times of Israel reported.

The Palestinian Authority called the Jewish visits provocative and a “serious threat to security and stability”.

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