Police and protesters clash at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque

AFP , Tuesday 25 Feb 2014

Al- Aqsa
Muslim worshippers run as tear gas fired by Israeli policemen rises during clashes with stone-throwing Palestinian protesters outside al-Aqsa mosque in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City 5 October , 2012. (Photo:Reuters)

Israeli police clashed with stone-throwing Palestinian protesters on Tuesday in the sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, ahead of a parliamentary debate over sovereignty of the holy site.

Israel's Knesset was preparing to debate a bill calling for Israel to annex the compound, Islam's third-holiest site and Judaism's holiest, which has been administered by Jordan for 20 years under a 1994 peace treaty.

Jordan's opposition Islamists meanwhile urged the government to freeze the treaty with the Jewish state, fiercely objecting to any change in status of Jerusalem's Muslim sites.

Israeli security forces entered the Al-Aqsa compound just after 7:30 am (0530 GMT), and fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse Palestinian protesters, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, adding there was "high tension" ahead of the Knesset debate.

Stones thrown by the Palestinians injured two policemen while three protesters were arrested, he said.

Palestinian medics said 15 protesters were injured by rubber bullets.

Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Islamic Waqf (Religious Endowments) body that oversees the site, said he had called for a closure of access to the compound to avoid clashes.

"Since yesterday we've been demanding the closure of the Maghabira gate (which leads to the Al-Aqsa compound), because of the provocations and statements against Muslims by various rightwing parties," he told AFP.

"We are waiting to see what happens at the Knesset today", he said, adding, "There have been Jordanian contacts with Israel to prevent any moves that will affect Al-Aqsa's status" under Jordanian administration.

The Israeli Knesset, or parliament, is due to debate in the evening a bill introduced by MP Moshe Feiglin, a hardline member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, which envisages the "application of Israeli sovereignty" over the compound.

Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community. Under a 1994 peace treaty, Jordan retained authority over all Muslim sites in Jerusalem.

Jordan's opposition Islamists called on the government to freeze the treaty, latching onto the bill as justification for severing ties with the Jewish state.

"We urge the government to meet the demands of people who have repeatedly called for freezing and eventually cancelling the peace treaty," the Islamic Action Front (IAF) said on its website.

Jordanian officials were not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this month a panel of Jordanian MPs warned that "Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa represent a red line".

No vote is envisaged at the end of Knesset debate. Netanyahu is opposed to the bill and commentators say it is unlikely to attract much support.

The Al-Aqsa compound, which lies in Jerusalem's Old City, is a flashpoint because of its significance to both Muslims and Jews.

Sitting above the Western Wall plaza, it houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

It was the site of the first and second Jewish temples and is known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

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