Israel reopens Al-Aqsa complex after hours of violence

The holy site was closed earlier in the day

Israel reopens Al-Aqsa complex after hours of violence

By Turgut Alp Boyraz with additional reporting from Michael Hernandez in Washington


Israeli authorities reopened the Al-Aqsa Hegazi compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday, following a violent day in the holy city.

"After police security assessments made, Temple Mount open again after being closed today," Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld tweeted, using the Jewish term for the holy compound.

He added that police units would remain deployed in Jerusalem Thursday evening.

Earlier Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the Haram al-Sharif, which contains the mosque, “must be re-opened to Muslim worshippers,” as she appealed for calm in the restive city.  

“We’re extremely concerned by escalating tensions across Jerusalem and particularly surrounding the Haram al-Sharif, Temple Mount,” she said. “It is actually critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric and preserve the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in word and in practice.”

Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Jordan-run Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, said that the mosque had been shut by the Israeli authorities since dawn.

The holy site had never been closed since 1967 when Israel occupied the city, he noted.

The closure came shortly after extremist Jewish rabbi Yehuda Glick was seriously injured in a drive-by shooting in Jerusalem late Wednesday.

Glick, an American national, is known for leading groups of Jews to force their way into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem.

Tension has intensified further when Israeli forces killed Moataz Hegazi – who had been suspected of shooting the rabbi – in a raid on his East Jerusalem home.

At least 20 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli police near Hegazi's home in al-Thawri neighborhood.

Psaki condemned Glick's shooting, and said that the U.S. is in touch with authorities for additional information.

Clashes spilled over to other areas of the holy city where Israeli forces used stun grenades, rubber bullets and teargas to disperse stone-throwing Palestinian youths, according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent.

Israeli police said Hegazi – who reportedly spent several years in an Israeli prison before being released in 2012 – was killed when he opened fire on police while resisting arrest in East Jerusalem.

Three other Palestinians were injured in the Israeli police raid, eyewitnesses said.

For Muslims, al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site while Jews refer to the area as the Temple Mount, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.

In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the "Second Intifada," a popular uprising against Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.


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