More than a dozen people were injured in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at Jerusalem's Temple Mount on Tuesday morning.
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Some 50 protesters camped out overnight at the compound after rumors that ultra-Orthodox Jews planned to hoist the Israeli flag on the platform.
When Israeli police arrived in the morning to open a gate for tourists, they were confronted by the Palestinian protesters, who threw rocks and firecrackers, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Police responded by firing stun grenades. About a dozen protesters were treated for tear gas inhalation and two policemen were lightly injured, he said. Three protesters were arrested.
Rosenfeld denied claims that police used rubber bullets against the protesters.
The clashes came as the Knesset prepared to debate a demand by far-right MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) that calls for Israel to "realize its sovereignty on the Temple Mount."
Since winning his Knesset seat last year, Feiglin has waged a fierce public battle to allow Jews to pray at the contested Jerusalem holy site, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.
Revered as Islam's third holiest spot, the site's gold-topped Dome of the Rock enshrines the rock where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. Jews believe the rock may be where the holiest part of the two ancient temples stood about 2,000 years ago – and where religious Jews hope a third temple will one day be built.
The site has been managed by a Muslim religious trust, the Waqf, for centuries. Yet, according to Feiglin, "the Muslim Waqf has turned the religious autonomy it has received – thanks to multiple Israeli governments turning a blind eye – into almost complete Muslim/Jordanian sovereignty."
Feiglin went on to say that Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas and Islamic Movement flags are flown there freely, and Muslims who enter the site are not inspected. "However, at the Mughrabi Gate, the only gate through which Jews can enter as visitors, the Israel Police strips Jews down to their underwear for fear they are smuggling in an Israeli flag or a Book of Psalms. Waqf officials cling to Jewish visitors and scrutinize their lips to see if they are praying."
How to word the resolution
The Knesset discussion was scheduled to take place last week, but was postponed. It was expected to include a vote on the wording of the resolution Feiglin intends to propose, but it remained unclear whether a vote would take place.
Feiglin held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office on Monday in an effort to decide on wording that would suit the coalition, while still reflecting the Likud lawmaker's desire for a formal declaration about Israeli sovereignty on the mount.
The Prime Minister's Office, meanwhile, has worked to soften the proposal's language, fearing it could fan the flames on the streets of East Jerusalem and in the Muslim world.
Meretz: This is a religious provocation
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On on Tuesday responded to the clashes on the Temple Mount, calling it a direct result of Feiglin's "provocative initiative to discuss Jewish visits to the Temple Mount."
"This is a religious provocation that has explosive national implications," Gal-On said. "The timing of his initiative, when the government is conducting peace talks for a final-status agreement, including the status of Jerusalem and sovereignty over the Temple Mount, is intended to torpedo any future deal or compromise on Jerusalem."
Gal-On added that the Temple Mount issue cannot be resolved independently of other core issues being discussed between Israelis and Palestinians.