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Israel bans access for non-Muslims to holy site

28 June 2016, 19:43

Jerusalem - Israeli police on Tuesday banned non-Muslims from a contentious Jerusalem holy site until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan following two days of clashes with Palestinian rioters at the site.

Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said rocks and other objects were hurled toward police forces and Jewish worshippers in a nearby plaza. A 73-year-old woman was lightly injured and police arrested 16 suspects in the disturbances that have been going on for three days, Rosenfeld said.

As a result, police decided to close access to Jewish worshippers and other visitors for the remainder of the week to prevent tensions with Muslim worshippers until Ramadan is over.

Since Sunday, Palestinians had holed up in the Al Aqsa Mosque atop the mount and attacked officers with fireworks and other objects they had stockpiled inside.

The mosque is part of a compound sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, where they believe the Prophet Muhammad embarked on a night journey to heaven, while Jews refer to it the Temple Mount, where the two Jewish temples stood in biblical times.

Violence had erupted at the site in mid-September before spreading elsewhere. Since then Palestinians have carried out dozens of attacks, including stabbings, shootings and car ramming assaults, killing 32 Israelis and two visiting Americans. About 200 Palestinians have been killed during that time, most identified by Israel as attackers.

The unrest has led to renewed calls for peace talks, which last broke down more than two years ago.

Also Tuesday, visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that while he understood Israel's security concerns, any measures it took would not "solve the underlying causes of the cycles of violence" that have plagued the region.

"I encourage you to take the courageous steps necessary to prevent a one-state reality of perpetual conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of Israeli and Palestinian people," Ban said, speaking in Jerusalem alongside Netanyahu.

Netanyahu asked Ban to use his final six months in office to rectify what he called the United Nations' unfair treatment of Israel. He singled out the UN Human Rights Council, which he said always condemns Israel, the "country that does more to promote and protect human rights and liberal values than any other in the blood-soaked Middle East".

"Our progressive democracy has faced more country specific resolutions more country specific condemnation at the UN Human Rights Council than all the other countries combined," Netanyahu said. "And I believe that this is a profound betrayal of the United Nation's noble mandate."

- AP


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