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Clashes Erupt After Israel Closes Jerusalem Holy Site


Israeli police officers scuffle with Palestinian protesters outside the Lions Gate to Jerusalem's Old City, March 12, 2019.

Israeli officials closed Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site, revered by Jews and Muslims, after a firebomb was thrown at a police station on the compound.

Police on Tuesday clashed with dozens of Palestinians at the compound revered by Jews as Temple Mount, and by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary. All worshippers were evacuated from the compound. Police said it would reopen to worshippers and visitors Wednesday.

Israeli police also took the unusual measure of closing all gates to the Old City, allowing only residents access to the Muslim and Christian quarters.

The incident further heightened tensions at the flashpoint site, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and gold-topped Dome of the Rock.

Palestinians pray as Israeli border police stand guard near the entrance door leading to the compound housing Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, March 12, 2019.
Palestinians pray as Israeli border police stand guard near the entrance door leading to the compound housing Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, March 12, 2019.

Firas Dibs, spokesman for the Waqf, the Jordanian-appointed Islamic body that administers the site, said at least six Palestinians were arrested and 10 injured in the clashes. But Israeli police would only confirm three arrests.

The closure of the compound drew quick rebuke from leaders around the Muslim world.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the "dangerous Israeli escalation'' and warned of "serious repercussions.''

Abdul Nasser Abul al-Basal, Jordanian minister of Islamic affairs, told state-run Al-Mamlaka TV that the closure was an "attack on religious freedom."

The United Nations Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, called for calm.

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