All hell’s broken loose at the Old City here in Jerusalem the past few days. But you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t right where it had been happening -- at the Temple Mount, Jerusalem’s sacred site for Muslims.
Tour buses were still parked outside the Old City on the weekend around Jaffa Gate, near the Jewish and Christian side, with tourists streaming in, despite the fact that hundreds of Muslim worshippers clashed with Israeli police at the Temple Mount Friday after Muslim prayers.
Jerusalem’s .35-square-mile walled Old City, a World Heritage site, is divided into four quarters -- the Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim Quarters.
Israeli police said dozens of protesters barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque, which along with the Dome of the Rock sits atop Temple Mount, after throwing rocks at security forces. The police had been trying to stop the protesters from throwing rocks onto the Western Wall plaza below, Judaism’s holiest shrine. Israeli police then used stun grenades to disperse the demonstration in the mosque.
A 25-year-old Palestinian man was killed later Friday by Israeli forces during a demonstration near a military checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah. The demonstration was a result of the clashes with Israeli police on the Temple Mount.
The protests came at the end of a tense fortnight in the Old City.
Two weeks ago, police barred right-wing activists from Israel’s ruling Likud Party from accessing the Temple Mount. Anti-Israel protests erupted at the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan in reaction to the attempt to access the holy site.
An extremist Israeli website called “Temple Mount Faithful” has been encouraging religious Jews to go to the Temple Mount recently to exercise Jewish sovereignty over the religious area. The Web site openly advocates destroying any Muslim buildings there to make way for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. Many Palestinians believe that Jews will not relent in their quest to have the Third Temple built there.
On Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Arabs and Muslims to visit Jerusalem more to counter what called Israel’s efforts to Judaize the divided city.
Speaking at the International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem in Doha, Qatar, Abbas accused Israel of “surrounding Jerusalem with an Apartheid wall and a band of settlements in order to isolate the city from its surroundings in the West Bank.“
He urged Muslims and Arabs that visiting “occupied Jerusalem” would remind the Israelis that “Jerusalem is the cause of every Arab, Muslim and Christian.”
Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli politicians have consistently insisted that the holy city is the Jewish state’s “undivided capital“ although the international community does not recognize it as such. The Palestinian Authority, in turn, regards East Jerusalem as the capital of any future Palestinian state.