Jerusalem Police to reopen Temple Mount to worshipers on Wednesday
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Jerusalem Police to reopen Temple Mount to worshipers on Wednesday

Site closed Tuesday after firebomb attack damaged a police post near the shrine compound

Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray in front of a barrier after Israeli border police closed one of the entrances of the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 12, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray in front of a barrier after Israeli border police closed one of the entrances of the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 12, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Jerusalem Police chief Doron Yadid ordered the Temple Mount compound reopened to Muslim worshipers on Wednesday morning after the holy site was shuttered Tuesday following a firebomb attack on a police post.

Police said one officer was treated for mild smoke inhalation after the firebomb attack on the post situated on the edge of the sensitive holy site, while 10 suspects were arrested.

Police said two minors are “linked” to the attack and will be brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday to extend their remand.

The closure sparked riots in the compound, the holiest site in Judaism and home to Islam’s third-holiest shrine. It led the Hamas terror group to call on Palestinians to protest in a mass march to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to “defy the ‘Israeli’ occupation’s decision to close it and impose the will of the worshipers to enter and exit the mosque when they want.”

A fire rages in a police post on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at it on March 12, 2019. (Ir Amim)

Tuesday’s incident came amid already high tensions at the Temple Mount, and drew widespread condemnation from Muslim officials and an expression of “concern” from the UN.

Police were deployed around the Old City and East Jerusalem amid fears of a violent backlash, but there were no reports of disturbances.

Palestinian officials claimed Tuesday the Israel Police had staged the firebomb attack.

An Israeli policeman holds back a Palestinian woman outside the Old City in Jerusalem after police closed the entrance to al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount following a firebomb attack on a police post at the site, on March 12, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Bassem Abu Labda, an official from the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf which administers the site at the behest of the Jordanian monarchy, told The Times of Israel that mosque authorities “did not see any Molotov cocktail thrown at the police. We are against all acts of violence and we condemn Israel’s actions in the Al-Aqsa Mosque today. Israel must reopen the mosque immediately.”

Earlier, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the closure as a “dangerous Israeli escalation” and warned of “serious repercussions.”

A Border Police officer blocks Grand Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein (R) from entering the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 12, 2019, after it was closed when a firebomb was thrown at police officers. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The firebomb attack came as tensions over the holy site have ratcheted up in recent weeks over a long-sealed area on the compound near the Gate of Mercy.

Muslim worshipers have repeatedly threatened to enter the Gate of Mercy site, which was closed by court order in 2003 over allegations that the group overseeing it was tied to Hamas.

Police officers detain a Palestinian man outside the Old City of Jerusalem on March 12, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The longstanding closure of the site has ignited tensions between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police in recent weeks. Worshipers have forced the area open and entered on several occasions.

High-level Israeli and Jordanian officials have been holding talks in the hope of defusing the situation. Last week, Israeli officials traveled to Jordan for meetings, and Jordanian officials have also visited Jerusalem according to Israeli reports.

The area inside the Gate of Mercy was sealed off by Israeli authorities in 2003, and it has been kept closed to stop illegal construction work there by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. The actual Gate of Mercy, which is a fortified gateway in the retaining wall surrounding the Temple Mount, has been bricked up for nearly 500 years.

Israeli security forces stand guard in front of the Golden Gate, also known as the Gate of Mercy, during a visit to the site by a group of religious Jews to the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, on March 7, 2019. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Israeli officials believe the work carried out by the Waqf, which refused to allow any Israeli observers, led to the destruction of antiquities from periods of Jewish presence in the area.

Last month, the Waqf reopened the site and Palestinian worshipers began to use it as a mosque, despite Israeli attempts to keep the area sealed.

Adam Rasgon, Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.

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