Israeli forces seal off Al-Aqsa gates, assault worshipers

Firebomb on Temple Mount sparks unrest as Israeli police close entrances to site

Israeli Police Scuffles with Muslims at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Compound

Israeli security forces on Tuesday, March 12, clashed with Muslims at the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City, after a firebomb was thrown at police.

No injuries were reported, but scuffles broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian worshippers, which resulted in the arrest of at least two Palestinians, Israeli authorities said.

Palestinians see Israeli restrictions on the areas as an attempt to cut them from the rest of the Al-Aqsa compound, and turn it into a site where Jewish Israelis can pray.

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. "Tampering with holy sites, especially al-Aqsa Mosque, is a direct call for violence".

He added that he was in touch with Jordanian Islamic Waqf in charge of administering the holy site "to pressure the occupation's government" to put an end to the escalation.

The commander of the Jerusalem district, Major General Doron Yedid, arrived at the scene shortly after and ordered for the compound to remain closed in order to inspect the area for other explosive devices that might be left behind by the attackers. "All doors are closed and no one is allowed in", he said.

Tensions in the holy compound in Jerusalem have risen in recent weeks after the site's Muslim administrators reopened a mosque sealed by Israel during a Palestinian uprising in 2003.

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The U.N. Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, urged both sides to "respect the status quo" at the holy esplanade and exercise restraint "to avoid inflaming an already tense situation".

"We call on the global community to intervene urgently in order to prevent the escalation ... we are holding urgent talks with all relevant parties, particularly with Jordan, in order to put pressure on Israeli government to put a stop to this risky escalation", the statement issued by Abbas's office said.

Israel closed the structure claiming it was used by a heritage organisation with ties to the Hamas militant group.

Meanwhile Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on "the whole world to react to Israel's brazen attacks on our scared land".

Demonstrations have devolved into standoffs with police in recent weeks.

Officials in Jordan have confirmed that they are in negotiations with Israel to resolve the dispute.

Mustafa Barghouthi, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative movement, also condemned the Israeli attacks on the Palestinian worshippers.

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