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Jerusalem mayor visits Temple Mount amid unrest

Nir Barkat makes the trip a day after Palestinian PM proclaimed sovereignty over East Jerusalem from same site

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, center, touring East Jerusalem with police officials on October 22, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, center, touring East Jerusalem with police officials on October 22, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited the Temple Mount Tuesday amid simmering tensions in the capital.

Barkat wrote on Twitter he made the trip with police in order to “gain a better understanding of issues and challenges.”

The visit came as tensions around the site have flared with Palestinians claiming that Israelis intend to change the status quo and allow Jewish prayer at the holy site. Clashes have broken out between police and rioters over the past several months during visits by Jews to the site and officials have at times banning Muslim males under the age of 50 or 60 from the site.

Other parts of the capital have also simmered in recent days with daily incidents of rock throwing. Police have bolstered their forces to quell unrest in Arab neighborhoods.

The mayor’s visit came a day after Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah toured the Temple Mount compound and proclaimed that “there will not be a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The compound, holy to both Jews and Muslims, is the historical site of the Jewish Temples and currently houses the al-Aqsa Mosque.

At the same time, Jewish worshipers and right-wing politicians have been lobbying for legislation that would allow Jews to pray at the site. Current regulations prohibit it.

Illustrative photo of Israeli riot police during clashes on the Temple Mount (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Israeli riot police during clashes on the Temple Mount (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials have accused Israel of trying to Judaize the site, with Abbas denouncing “incursions by extremist settlers” and joining Hamas in calling for Palestinians to defend it.

On Monday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh held talks with his counterparts in the US, the UN and Europe to pressure Israel to stop its “violations” on the Temple Mount, according to the Petra news agency. Jordan considers itself a custodian of the holy site.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged on Sunday that rising tensions between Muslim worshipers and Israeli security forces were the fault of “the Palestinian Authority, [President] Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas and personnel from Islamic organizations.”

Netanyahu said Monday there are no plans to make changes in the status quo on the Temple Mount.

The city has been experiencing near-daily protests and incidents of violence throughout East Jerusalem, including a terror attack last Wednesday in which a Palestinian man plowed his car into a crowd of people near a light rail stop, killing two people including a three-month-old girl.

On Friday, security forces killed a Palestinian teen in the West Bank over the weekend after he allegedly attempted to hurl a Molotov cocktail at traffic on Highway 60, sparking more riots.

Tensions have been high since June, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed by Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank. Jewish extremists retaliated by kidnapping and killing a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem. The kidnappings set off a series of events that led to the 50-day Gaza conflict, Operation Protective Edge.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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