Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Fire breaks out at Haram Al Sharif compound in Jerusalem

The small blaze occurred at the same time as Paris's Notre-Dame cathedral burned.

The firefighters who helped to put out the fire at the Haram Al Sharif compound in Jerusalem. The Administration of Jerusalem’s Awqaf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs
The firefighters who helped to put out the fire at the Haram Al Sharif compound in Jerusalem. The Administration of Jerusalem’s Awqaf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs

A fire broke out at the Haram Al Sharif compound in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem late on Monday at the same time as the Notre-Dame cathedral burned in Paris.

The blaze began in a guard’s booth in the courtyard at the flashpoint site that sits at the centre of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The fire was "quickly extinguished", Israeli police said, adding the cause was being investigated.

The Waqf religious organisation which oversees the site said the fire burned a guard's room above what is known as the Marwani prayer room.

It said the fire was caused by youths playing with fire, without providing further details.

The Jerusalem compound is holy to both Muslims and Jews. But Israel stopped short of taking over the site when it occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 for fear of stoking Muslim anger.

It is considered the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest in Judaism.

Any change to the status quo, no matter how minor, has the potential to ignite tensions.

Clashes and Israeli breaches have previously sparked incidents that led to an escalation of the conflict.

In 2015, perceived Israeli attempts to change the status quo at the site spurred a wave of Palestinian stabbing, vehicle ramming and shooting attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israeli cities.

Palestinians also complain about Israeli politicians and right-wing settlers visiting the site. In 2000, the Second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, was widely believed to have been sparked by a visit to the site by Israel’s opposition leader Ariel Sharon.

Updated: April 16, 2019 04:52 PM

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