Tensions in Jerusalem following threat to holy Islamic site
An online campaign to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque heightened religious tension in Jerusalem. The campaign,w hich allegedly originated with Moshe Feiglin, head of a hardline element of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, called on members to gather in order to storm Al-Aqsa early Sunday morning.
The intention behind the action was stated as gaining “complete control” of the site as a precedent for building a Jewish temple “on the ruins” of the mosque.
Despite the campaign flyer disappearing from online distribution at midnight Sunday, Jerusalem remained on alert throughout the day. Shortly after 9am, crowds gathered in protest outside the mosque, with their numbers at one point rumoured to reach 300. Intermittent chanting and shouts could be heard from the other side of the Western Wall for a short period of time.
The Temple Mount was shut down to all tourists on Sunday, and only those accessing it with the express intention of prayer during the midday session were allowed through. A heavy army and police presence was visible throughout the entire day, although none of the officers questioned would give a reason for this unusual activity.
Arriving early at the Western Wall, next to the Temple Mount, Moshe Feiglin attempted to distance himself from the campaign.
Many Israelis and Palestinians alike felt that an action of the type proposed would break local tensions enough to spark violence, particularly due to the sites’ historical connection to the beginning of the second intifada.
Yizhar Be’er of the Centre for the Promotion of Democracy in Israel, told RFI that the suggestion to storm the mosque was an act of similar gravity to the recent spate of racist “price tag” graffiti daubed on buildings across Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Furthermore, he explained that growing support for such behaviour represented a sign of increasing political support for religious extremism within Israel itself.
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