Jerusalem Picked as 'Islamic Tourism Capital for 2016'

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Israeli policemen run in front of the Dome of the Rock during clashes with stone-throwing Palestinians at the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.Credit: Reuters

Jerusalem has been picked as the capital of Islamic tourism for 2016 by the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, a Palestinian minister said Thursday.

Mahmoud Habbash, the Palestinian Authority minister of religious affairs, said the decision was another step towards breaking Israel's siege of Islamic holy sites.

He accused Israel of hiding the Islamic identity of Jerusalem and said that "Jerusalem is the religious and political capital of Palestine," the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, consisting of 57 member states, held its first international summit on Islamic tourism in Indonesia earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Australia stated that it will no longer refer to East Jerusalem as occupied territory, a dramatic shift in Australian policy on Israel since 1967. Most of the international community does not recognize Israel's authority in East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem poses an especially thorny issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as both claim it for a capital, with the Old City and the Temple Mount at the center of the contention.

Jerusalem's Temple Mount, known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif ("The Noble Sanctuary,") holy to both Muslims and Jews, has recorded rising tensions in recent months. Most incidents involve Jews attempting to access the area in order to pray or demonstrate a Jewish presence.

The growing strength of the Jewish Temple Movement and other organizations that seek to change the status quo on the Temple Mount has exacerbated these tensions, as has the crisis in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

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