Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Israeli police this morning strengthened its presence around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where access is denied to people under the age of 50, while the Palestinian government, has decided to meet in Hebron. Both places, yesterday and in recent days, were the focus of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.
Tensions seem destined to remain high between Israelis and Palestinians following the announcement of Benjamin Netanyahu government’s to include the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb (both in Hebron, the West Bank) on the national heritage list of Israel. The government decision came in the aftermath of the approval of a project to build 600 new homes in East Jerusalem, internationally regarded as an occupied zone. The move was seen by Palestinians as a further proof of the Israeli will to go ahead with the construction of settlements in the occupied territories. The Palestinians have tied the resumption of peace talks - sought by the United States and the UN – to an end to the construction of new settlements and the extension of existing ones.
In the new East Jerusalem project, in addition, the Muslims see the continuation of the plan of "Judaizing" the entire holy city.
The same allegations about Hebron: the Tomb of the Patriarchs is, for Muslims, the mosque of Ibrahim and the tomb of Rachel is the Bilal ben Rabah Mosque. Hebron is also a major West Bank city, inhabited by 160 thousand Palestinians, at the centre of which there is a "fortified" colony of 600 Israelis, while another, Kiryat Arba, with 6,500 settlers is on the outskirts. Netanyahu's announcement has provoked protests by Palestinians and clashes with police.
The Jerusalem incident, however, was provoked by the a police raid on the Temple Mount. An intervention due to Muslims throwing stones on those praying at the Wailing Wall below.
The Muslim world has reacted harshly to the "invasion" of Temple Mount. The President Organisation of Islamic Conferences, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, in a statement spoke of "dangerous development in the framework of an Israeli plan designed to suffocate the Islamic shrines," adding that "any damage to the Al Aqsa Mosque and other holy places" would have "serious consequences" and would be "an unforeseeable danger to world peace and security". King Abdullah of Jordan spoke of a "provocative attack" and "dangerous repercussions" also and similar terms were used by the United Arab Emirates who asked the international community to intervene to "protect the Muslims and Christian holy sites of Jerusalem."
As for the announced construction in East Jerusalem, a few days ago an Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel followed two different lines for the settlements: in the West Bank it "has accepted unprecedented restrictions, but Jerusalem is different, it is our capital”.
For Hagit Ofran, of the Israeli based office Peace Now, the plan to build in East Jerusalem has a political objective “to sink the two-state solution."