Jordan's Abdullah: Israel trying to rid Jerusalem of Arabs
Comment comes as Israel opens Temple Mount after a day of fierce clashes with rioting Palestinians.
The international community should not stand by and watch as Israel attempts to rid Jerusalem of its Arab residents, Jordanian King Abdullah II said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Jerusalem is a red line and the world should not be silent about Israel's attempts to get rid of Jerusalem's Arabs residents, Muslims or Christians," the Dubai daily Khaleej Times quoted the king as saying to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Amman.
Abdullah's comments came a day after the heaviest clashes in months broke out across the city during the orchestrated "day of rage" announced by Hamas, as the militant organization urged Muslims to reach the Temple Mount compound in order to protect it from an Israeli attempt to take it over.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Palestinians in east Jerusalem set tires and garbage bins ablaze and hurled rocks at Israeli riot police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.
The Jordanian monarch reportedly demanded the international community take a firm, swift, direct and effective action to "stop Israel's provocative measures in Jerusalem, that seek to change its identity and threaten holy sites there," he said.
Some 3,000 officers were put on high alert on Wednesday after Hamas called for anti-Israel protests. "We call on the Palestinian people to regard Tuesday as a day of rage against the occupation's [Israel's] procedures in Jerusalem against Al-Aqsa mosque," Hamas said in a statement.
Earlier Wednesday, Israel lifted its closure on the West Bank and granted open access to the Al-Aqsa mosque, with police saying that thousands of troops will remain on high alert but reported no disturbances. Israel originally sealed off the territory last week.
Police had predicted that Palestinian rioters would continue to stage violent protests on Wednesday in East Jerusalem and elsewhere, but the area was quiet during the morning hours.
Unknown assailants on Tuesday opened fire on a police officer patrolling the Ras al-Amud neighborhood in the east of the capital, hitting him in the hand and inflicting a minor injury, as violence seemed to spread to other parts of the country. Assailants in Jaffa hurled rocks at two public buses, and a truck in the Negev was hit by stones.
Fourteen other police officers sustained minor injuries from stones hurled at them by protesters, of whom a few required medical treatment. Approximately 60 people were arrested on suspicion of hurling stones at security forces.
Police chief David Cohen toured Jerusalem's Old City as clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces were ongoing, and said he did not believe the recent violence would spark a third intifada. "We are seeing signs of disorderly conduct," said Cohen, "but that is only a headline. We must be careful about characterizations and remarks being made."
The police chief also stressed that the city has a unique character that must be preserved, and that peace must be maintained in both the Arab and Jewish neighborhoods. Cohen added that the police will beef up its presence in the eastern part of the capital and surrounding villages until Friday and over the weekend, with the intention of returning to routine deployment by Sunday.
Police responded to Tuesday's riots, stone-throwing and burning of tires on roads by firing tear gas and rubber bullets, witnesses said. Some 40 Palestinians were treated at East Jerusalem hospitals for minor injuries, medical officials said. Police also arrested an Israeli rightist who tried to enter the Temple Mount compound and was refused by security forces.
Thousands of Palestinians, meanwhile, staged a protest march in the Gaza Strip to protest Israeli measures in Jerusalem. Ahmed Bahar, a senior figure in Hamas, called for an escalation of armed attacks against Israel and urged Arab states "to shoulder their responsibilities and send their warplanes and armies to rescue the Al-Aqsa mosque and end the Jewish policy of Judaizing Jerusalem."
The head of the police's Jerusalem District, Aharon Franco, said that despite the clashes, police at present intend to stand by their decision to permit right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel to conduct a protest march under the banner "We Demand Equal Enforcement" in the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The maximum number of participants is 70, as per the police's restrictions. Franco nonetheless said that the decision to allow the procession "is subject to change."
Tuesday's riots began with two fire bombs that unknown assailants hurled at a house occupied by Jews in Silwan. As riots and stone-throwing occurred elsewhere, police blocked traffic into Jerusalem of Muslim worshipers from other areas of Israel, including the Galilee.
In Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem, a squad of undercover police officers dressed in civilian clothes and kaffiyes, arrested several protesters and dispersed the crowd that gathered there.