Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Saturday urged Israel to take swift measures to calm tensions around the Temple Mount after daily clashes this past week between Israeli security forces and Palestinian rioters
“It is without doubt a dangerous violation of Islamic holy places,” Sissi said at a press conference with EU president Donald Tusk, urging Israel to take “immediate and effective steps” to defuse tensions.
“The international community must realize the attachment of all Muslims to this place,” he said, warning that the unrest could have “grave consequences for peace and stability.”
The compound is the holiest site in Judaism, which venerates it as the site of the biblical temples, and the third-holiest site in Islam. Under long-standing regulations introduced by Israel when it captured Jerusalem’s Old City from Jordan in the 1967 war, Jews are allowed to visit but cannot pray there to avoid provoking tensions.
The UN, US and EU — and a number of Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Morocco — 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.
The UN Security Council on Thursday issued a controversial statement over the unrest, expressing its “grave concern” about the ongoing violence on the contested holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, or Haram al-Sharif. The statement said Muslims at the site “must be allowed to worship in peace, free from violence, threats and provocations” and that “visitors should be without fear of violence or intimidation.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations slammed the UN announcement, saying it was “one sided,” and “unacceptable” in its denial of Jewish connection to the holy site.
The unrest on the Temple Mount began Sunday, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, after police, acting on information from the Shin Bet security service, raided the Temple Mount and found pipe bombs and other improvised weapons, apparently prepared in advance for an organized riot.
Clashes at the site and around Jerusalem ensued almost daily all week. On Sunday night, an Israeli man was killed after a rock-throwing attack in the capital caused him to lose control of his vehicle and crash into a pole. Two passengers in the car with him were lightly hurt; the three were returning from an event celebrating Rosh Hashanah.
On Friday, Israel restricted entry to the Temple Mount for prayers, only granting admission to men over the age of 40 and women. Hundreds of Palestinians protested outside the Damascus Gate, while clashes occurred in other areas of the city as well as in the West Bank.
In Jerusalem, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets as protesters pelted them with stones in neighborhoods around the Mount of Olives, including in Shuafat refugee camp. Rioters threw a petrol bomb at a Border Police vehicle in Jabel Mukaber in East Jerusalem, wounding three policemen. The police fired into the air and at the rioters who threw the petrol bomb. Three people were arrested, including one person who had been injured in the incident.
A bus driver was lightly hurt Friday evening when his vehicle came under a hail of stones in Hizma, north of Jerusalem. Stones were also thrown at vehicles on the central highway in the West Bank, Channel 2 television said.
Fire bombs were also hurled at a IDF Home Front Command base near Mount Scopus. Four firefighting units were called to the base after a blaze broke out as a result.
In the West Bank, the Red Crescent said three Palestinians were wounded by IDF fire at Kafr Kaddum near Nablus, while youths hurled projectiles at police near Ofer prison, the Qalandiya checkpoint and Jalazun refugee camp.
The unrest continued into the night Friday as rioters threw petrol bombs, fireworks and stones at Border Police officers stationed in the Jabel Mukaber and Isawiyah neighborhoods.