The struggle over Al-Aqsa Mosque is a colonial and not a religious one, Palestinian experts say.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned of the “risk of a new Intifada”, as clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in occupied East Jerusalem continue.
In recent weeks, tensions have turned violent at the Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims. Jewish Israelis, particularly settler groups, visited the compound frequently in the lead-up to and during the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah last week.
“What is happening is very dangerous,” Abbas said on Tuesday, after a meeting with French leader, Francois Hollande in Paris.
Abbas called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “stop” the chaos at the holy site, claiming that it will result in “a new Intifada, which we don’t want”.
Hollande called for “peace, calm, and the respect of principles”.
Israeli forces were deployed in large numbers across East Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighbourhoods earlier in the day, ahead of the Jewish fast of Yom Kippur on Wednesday and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on Thursday.
Checkpoints connecting East Jerusalem with the rest of the West Bank were closed off by the Israeli army.
“People are scared because the police and settlers have a heavy presence everywhere, but especially in the Old City, near Al-Aqsa,” Rashad Shtayyed, a 27-year-old resident of Jerusalem’s Wadi al-Joz neighbourhood, told Al Jazeera.
“Others worry that [Israel] will try to partition the mosque compound,” Shtayyeh added, alluding to the division of the Ibrahimi Mosque into Muslim and Jewish worship areas in the West Bank city of Hebron.
“[Israeli] forces are present in huge numbers, and there have been a lot of arrests in the [Palestinian] neighbourhoods,” added Shtayyeh.
More than 150 Palestinians, among them many children, have been arrested in East Jerusalem over the past 10 days, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society.
“Just yesterday, 18 Palestinians [in Jerusalem] were arrested,” Rafat Sub Laban, advocacy coordinator of Addameer Prisoner Support Network, told Al Jazeera.
“Most of them were teenagers,” Sub Laban added. “Ten of the detainees were under 18, and one is 13 years old.”
An Israeli police spokesperson was not available for comment.
Two weeks ago, Israel outlawed the male and female groups of Palestinian worshippers – known respectively as Mourabitoun and Mourabitat – who attempt to prevent Jewish Israelis from entering the Aqsa Mosque compound.
Anger was amplified on Tuesday when a Palestinian teen was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank.
A study published by the Palestinian Center for Study and Policy Research found that 57 percent of Palestinians “support a return to an armed Intifada”, as opposed to 49 percent supporting an uprising just three months ago.