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Israel calls up reservists following holy site violence in Jerusalem

Published 18/09/2015

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to throw stones towards Israeli troops. (AP)
A Palestinian uses a slingshot to throw stones towards Israeli troops. (AP)

Israel has made a rare decision to call up hundreds of police reservists to beef up security after Palestinian riots at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site and outbreaks of violence elsewhere in the city.

Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee which made the decision in a "special discussion", said the additional forces "will help in returning order quickly" to Jerusalem.

Several policemen were wounded when Palestinians attacked them with fire bombs and rocks, and three were taken to hospital, authorities said. Emergency services said one officer was shot in the arm.

The attack happened near the area where an Israeli man died this week after Palestinians pelted his car with rocks. About a dozen Israelis have been wounded in the violence over the past week.

Most of the unrest has focused on Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site - a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The compound is a frequent flashpoint and its fate is a core issue at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, site of the two biblical Jewish temples. Muslims revere it as the Noble Sanctuary, where they believe Islam's Prophet Mohammed ascended on a visit to heaven.

Since Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, Jews have been allowed to visit - but not pray - at the compound. Under an arrangement, Muslim authorities manage the site's religious and civilian affairs under Jordanian supervision, while Israeli police oversee security.

Unrest began on Sunday on the eve of the Jewish new year holiday of Rosh Hashanah when Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque and threw rocks and firecrackers at officers.

Police said pipe bombs were also found there.

Rumours had been spreading among Palestinians of a "plot" to take over the site after activists from a Jewish group publicised a notice for "a mass visit to the Temple Mount" on Sunday.

Israel has reiterated its position that it has no plans to change the status of the site and will reserve it for Muslim prayer only, but even rumours to the contrary are enough to spark unrest.

Police entered the hilltop compound three days in a row to disperse Palestinians who had holed up inside the mosque with stockpiles of rocks and fireworks. The Israeli response sparked condemnation across the Arab world and concern that the tensions could spiral out of control.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the clashes in particularly harsh language, claiming that none of Jerusalem's holy sites belonged to Israel.

Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan blamed Mr Abbas for "incitement and lies" that led to violence. He said that by bringing explosive materials and rocks into the holy site, rioters had turned the "house of worship" into a "warehouse of terror".

Police have put thousands of officers on patrol. It also banned Muslim men under the age of 40 from praying at the site in an attempt to curb violence as mostly younger Palestinians throw rocks at the site.

There were minor protests in Hebron in the West Bank.

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