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Photo: Reuters
Clashes on Temple Mount (Archive)
Photo: Reuters
Police enter Temple Mount, arrest 3 Palestinian rioters
Protesters threw stones, firecrackers at security forces in the holy site, forcing police to enter it to disperse the crowd.

About 20 masked Palestinians threw stones and firecrackers at Israeli security forces from atop the Temple Mount Tuesday morning.

 

A police force entered the area to disperse the rioters using crowd dispersal means, including stun grenades. Three rioters were arrested on suspicion they threw rocks and firecrackers at security forces.

 

Two policemen were lightly hurt in the incident, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told AFP.

 

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The site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is ground zero in the territorial and religious conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Clashes often erupt after Muslims conclude their prayers. Jews typically pray below at the Western Wall but tensions have grown lately with an increased number of Jews arriving to pray at the Temple Mount as well.

 

Revered as Islam's third holiest spot, the site's iconic gold-topped Dome of the Rock enshrines the rock where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven. Jews believe the rock may be where the holiest part of the two ancient temples stood about 2,000 years ago - and where religious Jews pray a third temple will one day be built.

 

The site is so holy that Jews have traditionally refrained from praying on the hilltop, but attitudes among some Orthodox Jews have been evolving and there has been growing demand to allow Jews to pray there freely as well.

 

Nationalist lawmaker Moshe Feiglin (Likud) has been leading the charge. Feiglin initiated Tuesday's Knesset discussion in which he is to suggest extending Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Jordan currently administers Muslim religious affairs at the site. No vote is expected at the end of the debate.

 

The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, and the Old City, as the capital of their future state. The status of the site remains perhaps the most sensitive and explosive issue in US-brokered peace talks. Netanyahu's office strongly rejects Feiglin's initiative believing any change to the status quo could spark violence and unsettle the talks.

 

Mickey Levy, Israel's deputy finance minister and a former commander of the Jerusalem District Police, called the site "a keg of dynamite" and urged restraint.

 

Zehava Gal-On, head of the dovish Meretz Party, said Tuesday's riot was a direct result of Feiglin's "religious provocation." She said her party recognized the right to free worship at holy sites, but not every right had to be realized and at this time doing so would merely enflame the region.

 

Recently police has closed the site for visitors following riots or following intelligence on intentions to riot but on Tuesday morning, despite the high tensions ahead of the Knesset discussions, police decided to keep the Temple Mount open for visitors.

 

Moran Azulay and AFP contributed to this report.

 

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