Pales­tini­ans clash with Is­raelis

Un­rest takes place near con­tested Jerusalem shrine; 22 in­jured

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - ARON HELLER AND ILAN BEN ZION THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Mo­hammed Daragh­meh of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

JERUSALEM — Pales­tini­ans clashed with Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces near a con­tested Jerusalem shrine af­ter Mus­lim wor­ship­pers massed out­side for evening prayers Thurs­day as ten­sions over the holy site es­ca­lated.

Is­rael po­lice spokesman Luba Samri said Pales­tini­ans hurled stones and glass bot­tles at of­fi­cers af­ter the prayers out­side the site, re­ferred to by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Tem­ple Mount.

The Pales­tinian Red Cres­cent said it treated at least 22 in­jured people. Po­lice said no of­fi­cers were in­jured; they had no in­for­ma­tion about in­jured pro­test­ers.

The Pales­tini­ans were protest­ing Is­rael’s place­ment of metal de­tec­tors at the en­trance to the holy site af­ter a deadly at­tack there last week in which three Is­raeli Arab gun­men killed two Is­raeli po­lice of­fi­cers be­fore they were fa­tally shot at the en­trance to the site.

Is­rael has de­fended the de­tec­tors as a nec­es­sary se­cu­rity mea­sure, one it says is used rou­tinely at holy sites around the world.

But Mus­lim cler­ics have called for mass protests at the site to­day — un­less the de­tec­tors are re­moved by then. In­ter­na­tional ef­forts have been un­der­way to try to stave off a ma­jor con­flict.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and his se­cu­rity chiefs were to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion late Thurs­day af­ter he re­turned from France and Hun­gary. The se­cu­rity ser­vices were re­port­edly di­vided over what to do about the de­tec­tors, given the ris­ing ten­sions sur­round­ing the site.

Ear­lier in the day, Is­rael’s pub­lic se­cu­rity min­is­ter, Gi­lad Er­dan, in­sisted that the de­tec­tors are es­sen­tial to main­tain­ing se­cu­rity.

“The Is­raeli po­lice needs these metal de­tec­tors so the se­cu­rity checks can give a proper re­sponse to the se­cu­rity con­sid­er­a­tions,” he said.

Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces were on high alert ahead of to­day, when tens of thou­sands of Mus­lim wor­ship­pers will de­scend on the walled com­pound in Jerusalem’s Old City for Fri­day prayers. The Pales­tinian mil­i­tant group Ha­mas on Thurs­day called for a “day of rage” against the se­cu­rity mea­sures.

Con­flicts over the holy site have re­peat­edly trig­gered Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­fronta­tions. Ha­mas called the ini­tial clo­sure of the site af­ter last week’s deadly at­tack a “re­li­gious war” and called on fol­low­ers to at­tack Is­raelis.

Mus­lim cler­ics have been urg­ing the faith­ful to skip prayers in neigh­bor­hood mosques to­day and con­verge on the shrine, in an at­tempt to draw larger crowds. Wor­ship­pers have been asked this week to pray in the streets rather than sub­mit to the new se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures.

Ne­tanyahu held ur­gent phone con­ver­sa­tions with his se­cu­rity chiefs Wed­nes­day and ap­peared to be un­der in­ter­na­tional pres­sure to back down.

Ne­tanyahu said Is­rael is in close con­tact with Jor­dan, the tra­di­tional Mus­lim cus­to­dian of the shrine, to find a peace­ful so­lu­tion to the con­flict. Jor­dan’s rul­ing Hashemite dy­nasty, with an­ces­try said to go back to Prophet Muham­mad, de­rives much of its le­git­i­macy from cus­to­di­an­ship over the shrine. The White House also has called for ten­sions to be re­duced.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan also called on Is­rael to re­move the metal de­tec­tors in a phone con­ver­sa­tion with his coun­ter­part Reu­ven Rivlin. Rivlin called last week’s at­tack “in­tol­er­a­ble,” while of­fi­cials in Er­do­gan’s of­fice said he told the pres­i­dent that vi­o­lence wasn’t ac­cept­able. The of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity in line with reg­u­la­tions.

Az­zam Khatib, the di­rec­tor of the site’s Mus­lim ad­min­is­tra­tion, said he was hope­ful an ar­range­ment could be found be­fore the prayers to­day.

“We will never ever ac­cept any changes in the mosque, and Is­rael has to put an end to this cri­sis by re­mov­ing the metal de­tec­tors,” he said.

A Jerusalem res­i­dent near the site, Ruben Abu Shamsi, said he hopes “the Is­raeli govern­ment will be so wise to avoid the vi­o­lence.”

Na­tion­al­ist Is­raeli politi­cians have been pres­sur­ing Ne­tanyahu from the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett, leader of the pro-set­tler Jewish Home party, warned of an Is­raeli “ca­pit­u­la­tion” that “will dam­age Is­rael’s power of deter­rence and will en­dan­ger the lives of the vis­i­tors, the wor­ship­pers and the po­lice of­fi­cers.”

Af­ter last week’s at­tack, Is­rael closed the site for two days to con­duct searches. It was only the third clo­sure since Is­rael cap­tured the shrine, along with east Jerusalem and other ter­ri­to­ries, in the 1967 Mideast war.

The clo­sure drew wide con­dem­na­tion from the Mus­lim world. Is­rael be­gan open­ing the site grad­u­ally on Sun­day.

Jews re­vere the 37-acre raised plat­form as the site of their bib­li­cal tem­ples. It is the holi­est site in Ju­daism, and the nearby West­ern Wall, a rem­nant of one of the tem­ples, is the holi­est place where Jews can pray.

Muslims be­lieve the hill­top marks the spot from which the Prophet Muham­mad as­cended to heaven. It is Is­lam’s third-holi­est site af­ter Mecca and Me­d­ina in Saudi Ara­bia.

Also Thurs­day, the Is­raeli mil­i­tary said it fa­tally shot a 26-year-old Pales­tinian at­tacker who tried to stab sol­diers at a check­point near the West Bank city of He­bron.

In the past two years, Pales­tini­ans have killed 45 Is­raelis, two vis­it­ing Amer­i­cans and a Bri­tish tourist in stab­bings, shoot­ings and car-ram­ming at­tacks. Dur­ing that same pe­riod, Is­raeli forces have killed more than 255 Pales­tini­ans, most of them said by Is­rael to be at­tack­ers while others were killed in clashes with Is­raeli forces.

Is­rael blames the vi­o­lence on in­cite­ment by Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious lead­ers to com­mit at­tacks. Pales­tini­ans say the at­tacks stem from anger over decades of Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion of ter­ri­to­ries they claim for their fu­ture state.

A Jerusalem res­i­dent near the site, Ruben Abu Shamsi, said he hopes “the Is­raeli govern­ment will be so wise to avoid the vi­o­lence.”

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