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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 16 February 2019

Palestinians and Israeli police clash at Jerusalem holy site

Guards at the Dome of the Rock refused entry to an Israeli officer because he wore a skullcap

The struggle for the Old City of Jerusalem is at the heart of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. AFP
The struggle for the Old City of Jerusalem is at the heart of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. AFP

Palestinians and Israeli police clashed at the flashpoint Dome of the Rock in East Jerusalem yesterday after an officer tried to enter the holy site.

Muslim guards at the site, revered as one of the most important places of worship in the Islamic world, refused to allow the officer in for a security check because he was wearing a yarmulke – a Jewish skullcap – Palestinian officials said.

Palestinians fear that religious Israelis are trying to exert their influence on occupied East ­Jerusalem’s Old City, which is home to holy sites revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Jews are not allowed to pray on the site that Muslims control, known as the Haram Al Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, but which Jews refer to as the ­Temple Mount.

A Jordanian-Palestinian waqf, or Islamic trust, maintains control of the area despite Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem since 1967.

Firas Dibs, a spokesman for the Islamic authority that oversees the site, said dozens of worshippers scuffled with police after the guards closed the doors to the mosque and barricaded themselves inside. He said the director of the mosque was hurt.

An Israeli police spokesman said officers prevented any disturbances from taking place” after residents closed the doors of the mosque and stopped police from entering. He said the doors were opened a few hours later and that police detained five people for questioning.

The gold-domed mosque is part of the Al Aqsa complex, which Muslims consider the third holiest site after Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia.

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Mr Dibs said police carry out routine security checks every morning, and that the policeman was prevented from entering because he was wearing a yarmulke. Palestinians have long feared that Israel plans to take over the site so it can rebuild the temple, allegations denied by the Israeli government, which says it has no plans to change the status quo.

Updated: January 15, 2019 09:09 PM

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