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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

Israel arrests five Palestinians at the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem

The men were detained for a prayer protest at the site is contested by Jews and Muslims

FILE PHOTO: A general view of Jerusalem's Old City shows the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in the foreground as the Dome of the Rock, located on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, is seen in the background, December 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Jerusalem's Old City shows the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in the foreground as the Dome of the Rock, located on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, is seen in the background, December 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

Israeli police said they arrested five Palestinians for allegedly “causing a disturbance” at Haram Al Sharif.

The men took part in a prayer protest on Monday outside a section of the site that has been closed by Israeli court order for more than a decade.

Muslim religious officials convened in the closed area last week, and Israeli police placed a lock on a fence in response.

Videos of Monday’s incident show several men damaging the fence.

Haram Al Sharif houses the Al Aqsa Mosque and, as the third-holiest site in Islam, is one of the most sensitive areas affected by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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.

Jordan remains a custodian of the site as part of a Palestinian-Jordanian waqf, or Islamic trust, after Israel captured and occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

King Abdullah II has issued several warnings in recent years to Israel that any changes to the situation at the site, or ongoing fighting, could harm relations between the two countries.

Updated: February 19, 2019 05:25 PM

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