Tensions Run High Amid Violence at Har HaBayis

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Israeli policemen detain a Palestinian protestor during scuffles at Har HaBayis, Tuesday. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

The firebombing incident at Har HaBayis on Tuesday rapidly took on international dimensions as Turkey, Jordan, the U.N. and the Palestinians reacted to the crisis.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on “the whole world to react to Israel’s brazen attacks on our sacred lands” after authorities closed the site in response to the hurling of a Molotov cocktails at a police post.

Jordan’s Religious Affairs Minister Abdel Nasser Abu al-Basal, protested Israeli actions, claiming it was “a major violation of freedom of religion and is unacceptable.” He accused Israel of “attempting to stoke religious conflict.”

Hamas similarly urged the Arab and Muslim world “to take a stand against the occupation and its repeated aggressions against the holy sites in Jerusalem.”

In a statement, the Gaza terror group called for a mass march to the site 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.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened “serious repercussions” if the site remains closed.

Abbas had reportedly been in contact with Jordan “to pressure the occupation’s government to halt this dangerous escalation,” and called on the international community to urgently intervene.

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Israeli Police officials at Har HaBayis, Tuesday. (Police Spokesperson)

U.N. Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov expressed concern over the events.

“Places of worship are for prayer, not for provocations and violence. Restraint must be shown to avoid inflaming an already tense situation. The status quo must be fully respected by all,” he wrote.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan warned against further incitement. Israel “will not allow a religious war to be caused on the Temple Mount,” he said, adding that any attempt to “damage Israeli sovereignty” there will be met with the “fierce resistance” of police, Ynet reported.

Earlier in the day, Arabs threw a Molotov Cocktail at an Israeli police station near the Lions Gate on Har HaBayis, setting it on fire. The post went up in flames, and one officer suffered from smoke inhalation.

The police identified and arrested three terrorists, who were taken in for questioning.

Police later shut down the entrances to the compound, and scuffles broke out between Muslims and Israeli security forces.

Palestinians later held a protest prayer outside the shuttered gate.

The Damascus Gate entrance of the Old City was also closed for security reasons.

“Jerusalem Police Commissioner Doron Yadid visited the Temple Mount and held a situational assessment there. He ordered it evacuated and closed in order to conduct searches for other weapons,” police said.

Bassem Abu Labda, an official from the Waqf Islamic trust which administers the site, denied the Israeli version of events. He 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.”

A Waqf spokesperson was quoted by Turkish news agency Anadolu charging that Israeli police were behind the violence, and said 10 worshipers had been injured in the scuffles.

Israeli and Jordanian officials have been holding talks in recent days in an effort to calm tensions over closure of the Mercy Gate and the violent protests. Last week, Israeli officials traveled to Jordan for meetings, and Jordanian officials have also visited Yerushalayim, according to media reports.

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