Dozens of Palestinians have thrown firebombs at holy site in the Israeli-controlled West Bank. Others have called for “revolution,” as the United Nations (UN) Security Council prepares to discuss the growing violence.
The site targeted on Friday is revered by some Jews as the tomb of biblical patriarch Joseph and has become a popular prayer site in recent years. Footage released by local media showed flames leaping from the small stone structure which were extinguished by Palestinian security forces soon after.
The Israeli army condemned the arson as a “despicable act.”
The arson attack came amid heightened tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, with Palestinian organizations also calling for demonstrations in the West Bank and the Gaza strip for a “Friday of revolution.”
Police impose restrictions
At Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Friday, Israeli police were only granting men over the age of 40 access to the holy site for “security reasons.” The area is most important shrine in Judaism and the third most important holy place in Islam.
Violence between Israelis and Palestinians has escalated over the past month, with eight Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks – most of them stabbings – and 31 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. Fourteen of those were labeled by Israel as “attackers.”
The violence was initially re-ignited by Palestinian anger over what many saw as Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound. As the location of two biblical Jewish temples, the area is also a holy site for Jewish settlers.
Fears of third uprising
The UN Security Council was due to hold talks later on Friday to address the growing violence. Council member Jordac called the meeting amid fears that a third Palestinian inifada, or uprising might begin.
Around 5,000 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis were killed in the two previous uprisings in 1987 and 2000. The first Intifada was a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which lasted from December 1987 until the Madrid Conference in 1991. The second began in September 2000 when Ariel Sharon made a visit to the Temple Mount.
A rally in support of Palestinians was also due to take place in the German capital, Berlin, on Friday. President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, harshly criticized the planned meeting, and called on Berlin authorities to ban the “rally for solidarity with the Intifada.”
“Such blatant anti-semitism and hate towards Israel cannot take place in out country,” Schuster told German Jewish paper the “Jüdische Allgemeine.”
ksb/kms (AFP, AP, epd)