Saudi king seeks ‘urgent’ UN action on Temple Mount clashes
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Saudi king seeks ‘urgent’ UN action on Temple Mount clashes

Salman, other Arab leaders condemn recent confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at the holy site

Palestinian women argue with Israeli policemen during a protest against Jewish groups visiting the Temple Mount, which houses Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on September 16, 2015. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)
Palestinian women argue with Israeli policemen during a protest against Jewish groups visiting the Temple Mount, which houses Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on September 16, 2015. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

Saudi King Salman has appealed to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and members of the Security Council for “urgent measures” after clashes at the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa Mosque, state media reported late Wednesday.

Salman “expressed strong condemnation of the dangerous Israeli escalation” at the holy site where Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli police for three straight days, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“He called for serious and speedy international efforts and for the intervention of the Security Council to take all urgent measures to stop these violations,” it said.

Salman added that the “attack on worshipers” violates the sanctity of religions “and contributes to feeding extremism and violence in the world.”

US President Barack Obama speaks with King Salman of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on September 4, 2015. (AFP Photo/Yuri Gripas)
US President Barack Obama speaks with King Salman of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on September 4, 2015. (AFP Photo/Yuri Gripas)

SPA said Salman made the same appeal in phone calls to British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande.

Hollande warned on Wednesday that any change in the rules governing Al-Aqsa mosque compound could lead to “serious destabilization.”

The compound is the holiest site in Judaism, which venerates it as the Temple Mount, and the third-holiest site in Islam. Under longstanding regulations, Jews are allowed to visit but cannot pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

King Mohammad VI of Morocco on Thursday joined the growing chorus of Muslim leaders expressing outrage over Israel’s “violations” at the site, and discussed the issue with officials from the Palestinian Authority, Qatar and Jordan, Israel Radio reported.

Muslim protesters fear Israel will seek to change the rules governing the site, with far-right Jewish groups pushing for more access and even efforts by fringe organizations to erect a new temple.

According to the report, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his previous condemnation of Israel, and warned Jerusalem it was making a very serious mistake that could prove harmful to the entire region. On Tuesday, Erdogan urged the United Nations to act against Israel’s “breach” of the sanctity of the mosque in Jerusalem, and reportedly told the UN chief that Israel’s actions were “unacceptable” and a cause for “serious indignation” in the Muslim world.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel on Wednesday of “waging a fierce and relentless war against us in Jerusalem.” Ahead of an interview with the pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi on Thursday, Abbas warned that Palestinians would not accept separate access for Jews and Muslims to the Temple Mount.

“Dividing [access to] al-Quds by time or place will not pass,” he said. “Jerusalem is a red line and we will not allow anybody to touch it.”

Israel has not announced such plans, but the PA reportedly believes the government is considering them to prevent recurring violence on the holy site.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said he is committed to maintaining the current “status quo” at the site, but Palestinians remain deeply suspicious.

Overnight Wednesday, police arrested eight Palestinians — including six minors — suspected of involvement in the recent clashes with Israeli security forces. Since Sunday, at least three dozen Palestinian protesters have been detained by Israel, and 14 Israeli police officers were injured by rocks and firecrackers hurled at them by protesters.

The clashes began Sunday morning, with security forces seizing pipe bombs at the site in an operation carried out hours before Jews prepared to celebrate the Jewish New Year. The Shin Bet security service alerted police to the cache, apparently an effort by Palestinians to stock up on bombs, flares and rocks ahead of an organized riot.

The police said its forces had entered the site after protesters began throwing stones and firecrackers at the Mughrabi Gate, the access point for non-Muslim visitors to the site. Police said that protesters had wedged open a door to the mosque, which officers had later closed, allowing visits to the Temple Mount to continue as scheduled.

The UN, US and EU have urged restraint on both sides amid the latest clashes, while Jordan, which has custodianship rights over Muslim holy places in Jerusalem under its 1994 peace treaty with Israel, has warned that bilateral relations are at stake.

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