JERUSALEM: An Israeli far-right lawmaker visited the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem on Sunday, pressing for Jews to be allowed to pray there despite heightened tensions over its status.
In renewed clashes with Israeli police on Saturday night around east Jerusalem, 17 Palestinian protesters were detained, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, raising to 111 the number arrested in protests since Oct. 22.
An AFP photographer said MP Moshe Feiglin visited the compound in East Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, in spite of calls for restraint from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The hardline member of Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud bloc is a leading advocate of the right of Jews to pray on the compound, which is home to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque.
He was met with protests from Muslims crying “Allahu akbar” (God is greater).
Al-Aqsa and adjacent neighborhoods have seen months of violence, with the mosque compound a rallying point for Palestinian resistance to perceived Jewish attempts to take control of it.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel on Sunday joined in calls for Israel to change the status quo by allowing Jews not only to visit the compound but also to pray there.
“Jews must be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. There is enough room for everybody,” he argued, using the Jewish name for the site which is sacred to both religions.
Netanyahu, who has repeatedly said he has no intention to change the status quo, on Saturday urged the far right to act “responsibly” in the face of mounting tensions.
Israel on Thursday ordered a rare closure of the compound, after youths clashed with police following the fatal shooting of Muataz Hijazi, a Palestinian suspected of trying to murder hardline Jewish rabbi Yehuda Glick.
The area reopened the next day with Israel deploying hundreds of additional police, who prevented entry for Muslim men under 50. On Sunday, access was unrestricted, police said.