Israel shuts Al Aqsa mosque after unrest

The compound is the third-holiest site in Islam and a focus of Palestinian aspirations for statehood

Also on Tuesday night, in a separate incident, a Palestinian man was fatally shot by Israeli forces during clashes in the West Bank town of Salfit near Ramallah.

The Palestinian Authority says it believes Israel may have been the firebombing attack on its own police station at the Temple Mount on Tuesday, as part of a plot to spark a confrontation that would create a pretext for closing the site to Muslim worshipers. Abdul Nasser Abu Basal, Jordanian Minister of Islamic Affairs and Holy Sites, described the barring of Muslim worshippers from the site as "a flagrant assault on all religious values, rights and freedom", and "an attack on all Muslims that touches the entire Islamic nation".

Palestinian political groups said escalating tensions around Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, is a continuation of arbitrary policies of Israel against Palestinians.

The Waqf, a Jordanian-appointed body that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has staged periodic prayer-protests since late February to call for the reopening of the building. "Israel must reopen the mosque immediately".

A Border Police officer blocks Grand Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein (R) from entering the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 12, 2019, after it was closed when a firebomb was thrown at police officers.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the "dangerous Israeli escalation" and warned of "serious repercussions".

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The clashes came amid a dispute between Israel and Muslim worshipers over the status of the Bab al-Rahma ("Gate of Mercy") structure within the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, which was closed off by Israel in 2003 over alleged ties between the Islamic society operating there and the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas.

The longstanding closure of the site has ignited tensions between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police in recent weeks.

Violent altercations have erupted on several occasions over past weeks as thousands of worshipers have forced their way in to the contested area for Friday prayers. Last week, Israeli officials traveled to Jordan for meetings, and Jordanian officials have also visited Jerusalem according to Israeli reports.

"The Ramallah government subsequently issued a separate statement via the official WAFA news agency saying police prevented a call for prayer from the Al Aqsa Mosque, and "attacked Palestinians who gathered" outside one of the main gates of the Temple Mount compound, ostensibly to perform the evening prayer".

A number of detentions were carried out by Israeli forces across the compound.

Around the same time physical confrontations broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinians at the site.

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