JERUSALEM (JTA) – At least one Palestinian man was killed in clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli security forces and Muslims demonstrating against metal detectors installed at the Temple Mount.
The most serious clashes on Saturday took place in the evening after Muslim worshippers held a prayer service outside the gates of the Temple Mount, which they refuse to enter as long as the metal detectors are in place. Following the prayers some of the worshippers threw rocks, bottles and other projectiles at Israeli security officers, who responded with crowd control methods including water cannons and tear gas. Rioting also took place in other areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The Palestinian man killed in clashes in eastern Jerusalem was hit by a live bullet shot by Israeli security forces, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency. Three Palestinians were killed in clashes on Friday night, the same night that three members of one Israeli family were killed by a Palestinian assailant in their home in the West Bank settlement of Halamish as they sat at their Shabbat table.
Metal detectors were installed at the entrance to the Temple Mount after three Arab-Israelis shot and killed two Israeli police officers at the holy site on July 14, which Muslim leaders say is a change in the status quo. Since the metal detectors have been in place, Muslims have refused to enter the Temple Mount, instead praying outside of its gates, leading to clashes and the deaths of at least 5 Palestinians in recent days.
The United Nations Security Council announced that it will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss the violence surrounding the Temple Mount issue. The meeting comes at the request of Sweden, Egypt and France, according to reports.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday announced that Palestinian leaders have frozen all contact with Israel over newly installed security measures at the Temple Mount.
On Saturday, chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat in a statement issued by the PLO rejected Israel’s claim that the Palestinian leadership is inciting the violence. “Unlike the Israeli government, we are a leadership committed to the two-state solution and the full implementation of international law. Every time that there is a chance for peace, Israel tries to deviate attention by inventing new excuses, such as allegations of incitement,” Erekat said in a statement.
The Middle East Quartet in a joint statement said it is “deeply concerned by the escalating tensions and violent clashes taking place in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.”
The envoys for the Quartet, from the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, also “strongly condemn acts of terror, express their regret for all loss of innocent life caused by the violence, and hope for a speedy recovery to the wounded,” the statement issued on Saturday said.
The Quartet also called for all sides “to demonstrate maximum restraint, refrain from provocative actions and work towards de-escalating the situation.” The statement added that “violence deepens mistrust and is fundamentally incompatible with achieving a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Israel’s Security Cabinet is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting Sunday to decide how to respond to the violence.
The Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, said Saturday that he is willing to consider alternatives to metal detectors, as long as they would prevent future attacks on the Temple Mount.
“Israel doesn’t want to change the status quo, this is a clear message to the Muslim world from the Israeli government. We don’t want to change the political or religious status quo, nor the situation on the ground. The only thing we want is to ensure no one can enter with weapons again and carry out another attack,” he told Ynet.
In an interview with BBC Arabic he said: “I want to call on our neighbors in Arab countries, and on Muslims in general: If someone has an idea how to prevent another attack and promise worshipers that there won’t be more terror attacks, ahlan wa sahalan ( hello and you’re welcome in Arabic).”