Israeli police said the entrances to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound will be reopened on Wednesday morning, a day after they sealed off the gates in response to what they said was a firebombing of a police station on the site.
Palestinian witnesses, however, said the fire was caused by children who were playing with fireworks. No injuries were reported, but scuffles broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian worshippers, which resulted in the arrest of at least two Palestinians, Israeli authorities said.
Palestinian political groups said escalating tensions around Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, is a continuation of arbitrary policies of Israel against Palestinians.
“The prevention of the congregation, which wanted to pray in al-Aqsa, Judaisation, occupation, destruction and deportation of the capital [Jerusalem], will not affect the determination of our people to remain loyal to the resistance and the land,” Fatah movement spokesperson Atef Abu Saif said in a written statement.
Saif said incidents in Jerusalem was as a result of silence of the international community before the violation of all international agreements and human rights.
Palestinian resistance group Hamas also decried the incidents and called on people to be insistent on their will to enter and leave the sacred mosque when they want.
Mustafa Barghouthi, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative movement, also condemned the Israeli attacks on the Palestinian worshippers.
Warning of Israeli provocation to damage sacred places, he said Palestinians can fail Israel in its aims by being united and determined.
Jordanian Minister of Islamic Affairs and Holy Sites Abdul Nasser Abu Basal, described the barring of Muslim worshippers from the site as “a flagrant assault on all religious values, rights and freedom,” and “an attack on all Muslims that touches the entire Islamic nation.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu lashed out at Israel over the incident, saying it was time to end the country’s “recklessness”.
“We cannot accept such reckless attacks on holy sites and the whole world needs to react against it,” the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Cavusoglu as saying.
Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nation’s envoy for Middle East peace, urged both sides to “respect the status quo” at the holy esplanade and exercise restraint “to avoid inflaming an already tense situation”.
“Places of worship are for prayer, not for provocations and violence,” he wrote on Twitter.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognised by the international community.