Fighting at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem Stretches Into Third Day – Diaa Hadid/The New York Times

by Newsstand

   (Translation of audio:  Guys there’s a sniper above, a sniper – there’s a sniper above, be careful!)

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Clashes between Palestinian youths and the police at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem continued on Tuesday for a third day, after King Abdullah II of Jordan issued a rare warning to Israel that the fighting could weaken relations between the two countries.

King Abdullah, Israel’s steadiest ally in the region, said he was “concerned and angered” by clashes at the eighth-century mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, over the Jewish holidays.

Jordan recalled its ambassador, Walid Obeidat, last fall after Israel closed for a day the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, during a similar period of tensions. Mr. Obeidat did not return until February.

The clashes continued on Tuesday as Palestinian youths, some masked, took up positions in the Al Aqsa Mosque, where they had built barricades out of wood and iron rods, and from the closets where worshipers leave their shoes before entering the holy site, said Luba Samri, an Israeli police spokeswoman.

That account was confirmed by an Islamic official at the mosque, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to be identified by the Israeli authorities.

Omar Kiswani, director of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, said centuries-old woodwork, windows and doors had been damaged in the clashes.

“We are making calls for intervention,” Mr. Kiswani said. “We hope these problems won’t continue. We want quiet, to preserve the lives of the worshipers,” he said.

The youths pelted police officers, who appeared to use sound grenades to quell the demonstrators. A small fire erupted in some of the wooden panels being used as barricades.

Ms. Samri, the police spokeswoman, said the blaze had been caused by Palestinians throwing firecrackers; the mosque official said Israeli forces were to blame, adding that the fire had spread after sound grenades had burned holes into the mosque’s carpet

After the clashes, Jewish visitors and foreign tourists were allowed into the sweeping esplanades of the holy site, Ms. Samri said.

She said that the clashes began on Sunday when security forces sought to secure the area for foreign visitors and Jews at the contested holy site.

Similar clashes took place in July, when Jews held an annual day of fasting to commemorate the destruction of two ancient temples believed to have once stood at the holy site.

The clashes have been prompted partly by Palestinian fears that Jews were visiting the compound as part of an Israeli plan to assert sovereignty over the site or to divide it. Non-Muslim prayer is banned at the site, and Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that he has no intention of changing that.

Palestinians have grown more fearful of Israeli intentions in recent weeks, after Israel outlawed an organization of Muslim women who shout at Jewish visitors at the holy site. The government accused the organization, along with a less-vocal affiliated group of men, of inciting violence. Palestinians say they are defending the sanctity of their holy site.

Fighting at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem Stretches Into Third Day – The New York Times