After three days of clashes between Israeli police and stone-throwing Muslim protesters on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the European Union warned Tuesday against any “provocation,” while Iran called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to condemn Israel.
“The reported violence and escalation (at the site) constitute a provocation and incitement” ahead of important Jewish and Muslim holy days, European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters in Brussels.
“It is crucial that all parties demonstrate calm and restraint and full respect for the status quo of the holy sites,” Kocijancic said.
The 28-nation EU had recently “issued an appeal for full respect of the holy sites and said very clearly that any change of the status quo would have deeply destabilizing effects,” she added.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, called for “Islamic countries to condemn the aggression of the Zionist regime against the Muslim holy places,” the official IRNA news agency said.
Iran wants “an emergency meeting of the OIC member states to discuss actions to be taken,” she added.
The site is venerated by Jews as the holiest site in Judaism; Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest in Islam. Despite Israeli denials, Muslim protesters claim Israel is seeking to change rules governing the site, which allow Jews to visit but not pray there.
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 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 on Wednesday morning, 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 Mount to continue as scheduled.
The UN and US also 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 ties were at stake. The Hamas terror group said Tuesday that Israeli action at the Temple Mount constituted a “declaration of war.”