Jewish ministers and leaders banned from visiting Al-Aqsa | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 08.10.2015
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Middle East

Jewish ministers and leaders banned from visiting Al-Aqsa

Israeli troops have shot and killed an Arab who had stabbed four Israelis amid new violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Prime Minister Netanyahu has tried to calm the conflict amid opposition in his own ranks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barred cabinet ministers and lawmakers from visiting the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem in wake of the recent surge of violence.

Three new stabbings - in Jerusalem, in the West Bank and another in Israel's economic hub of Tel Aviv - had left several people wounded and an attacker dead in recent days. Palestinian attackers killed four Israelis in the last four days. Six Palestinians - including three attackers - were also killed.

Opposition among lawmakers

Cabinet members and lawmakers were told to refrain from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount, an Israeli official told journalists on condition of anonymity. Visits to the site had increased during the three-week Jewish holiday that began on September 13 and ended on October 5. The period saw intense clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police and killings of several Israelis by Palestinian youths.

Netanyahu ordered the ban over concerns that Jewish visits to the site could lead to further killings. Netanyahu's move to try and calm the situation appeared to put the Israeli leader on a collision course with hardliners within his own governing coalition. The prime minister's orders were received with criticism from cabinet minister Uri Ariel, a member of the pro-settler Jewish Home party. Ariel said he would take up the issue directly with Netanyahu on Thursday.

In 2000, then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon had visited the Temple Mount site shortly before the second Palestinian intifada erupted.

Sensitive location in Jerusalem's Old Town

On Wednesday, Israel permitted Palestinians to pray in the Al-Aqsa compound after three days of restrictions supposedly meant to curb violence.

The Jerusalem hilltop compound lies at the heart of recent tensions. It's revered by Muslims as the spot where Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Jews regard it as the site of the two Jewish biblical Temples.

Under a long-standing arrangement administered by Islamic authorities, Jews were allowed to visit the site during certain hours but not pray there. Many Palestinians believe Israel is trying to expand Jewish presence at the site, a claim Israel adamantly denies and considers slanderous.

Security threats

Israel has beefed up security in response to the violence in Jerusalem, and on Thursday police set up metal detectors at the entrance to Israel's Old City as a measure to prevent attacks.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat carried an assault rifle while visiting an Arab neighborhood and encouraged other licensed gun owners to do so as well.

Jerusalem's junior high and high schools went on strike on Thursday to protest a lack of security on campuses. Barkat said the city's students had been "abandoned" and that the looming threat of violence made it impossible for them to go to school.

Netanyahu said Israeli civilians were at the "forefront of a war against terrorism" and therefore had to be on "maximum alert." The prime minister postponed a trip to Germany, saying he had to tackle the crisis in his country.

mg,ss/sms (dpa, AP, AFP)

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