Firebomb on Temple Mount sparks unrest as Israeli police close entrances to site
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Firebomb on Temple Mount sparks unrest as Israeli police close entrances to site

No injuries reported after Palestinian suspects attacked police station, leading to Jerusalem authorities limiting access to the holy site.

Stone throwers on Temple Mount (2015)
Stone throwers on Temple Mount (2015)

Israeli police have closed the entrances to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site after Palestinian suspects threw a firebomb at a police station.

There were no injuries reported from the firebombing, but police quickly deployed across the hilltop compound, scuffling with Palestinians in the area as they searched for the assailants.

Three suspects were arrested and police were seen wrestling a woman to the ground.

The incident heightened tensions at the site, which is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The Western Wall is the last supporting wall of the Temple Mount, and is the centre for Jewish prayer from around the world.

The spot, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and gold-topped Dome of the Rock, is a frequent flashpoint of violence.

Police also restricted entrance to the Old City, home to Jerusalem’s most important religious sites, allowing only residents to pass through certain entrances to the Muslim and Christian quarters. Other entrances to the Old City remained open.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the “dangerous Israeli escalation” and warned of “serious repercussions”. In a statement, he called on the international community to intervene.

Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City. April 1, 2017.
Credit: JINIPIX

The area has experienced a series of tense stand-offs in recent weeks after Muslim worshippers reopened an area known as the Gate of Mercy, closed by Israel in 2003.

The Waqf, a Jordanian-appointed body that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has staged periodic prayer-protests since late February to call for the reopening of the building.

Israel closed the structure claiming it was used by a heritage organisation with ties to the Hamas militant group.

The Waqf says that because the heritage group is now defunct, the council should regain full access to the building like any other in the holy esplanade.

Demonstrations have devolved into stand-offs with police in recent weeks. Israel has barred several guards and high-ranking officials from the Waqf from the compound and arrested dozens of Palestinians under suspicions of inciting violence at the site.

Officials in Jordan, which is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, have confirmed they are in negotiations with Israel to resolve the dispute.

Mr Abbas’s office said the Palestinians are also in touch with various sides including Jordan.

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