JERUSALEM (JTA) – Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited the Temple Mount despite increased violence at the holy site and in the Israeli capital.
Barkat went to the site Tuesday with the commander of the Israel Police’s David District, Brig.-Gen. Avi Biton.
“As part of ongoing cooperation w/ #Jerusalem Police, I visited Temple Mount this morning to gain deeper understanding of issues & challenges,” Barkat tweeted following his visit.
The Muslim Wakf, the religious administration charged with managing the Temple Mount site, condemned the visit, saying it was made for “publicity” and “political” purposes.
Sheikh Omar al-Kiwsani, the director of the Al-Aksa Mosque, told the Palestinian Maan news agency that “Barkat is the first mayor to storm Al-Aksa, joining the extremist groups and extremist Knesset members who usually storm the place and urge others to do the same.”
Tension on the Temple Mount has increased in recent months, coming to a head during the Jewish High Holidays when more Jewish pilgrims visit the site, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Jerusalem has been at the centre of violence and tension since the summer, when three Jewish teens were kidnapped and later found dead, and a Palestinian teen was abducted and burned alive in revenge. In recent days, the tension has increased due to an attack by a Palestinian driver on a light rail station in Jerusalem that killed two, including a 3-month-old girl, and the killing by Israeli soldiers of a Palestinian teen with American citizenship accused of preparing to throw a firebomb into traffic.
On Monday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited the Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount.