Jerusalem: Netanyahu bars ministers from holy site

A PALESTINIAN stabbed a Jewish seminary student in Jerusalem yesterday as the Israeli prime minister barred all cabinet ministers and MPs from visiting a sensitive holy site in the Old City in an effort to calm tensions that have gripped the country for weeks.

Israeli police check the papers of Palestinian women in Jerusalems Old City as tensions mount. Picture: AP
Israeli police check the papers of Palestinian women in Jerusalems Old City as tensions mount. Picture: AP

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said a Palestinian teenager stabbed the 25-year-old Israeli in the neck, wounding him seriously, before police apprehended the attacker. It was the latest act of Palestinian violence in a week in which bloody attacks killed four Israelis and injured several others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s move to try and calm the situation appeared to put the Israeli leader on a collision course with hard-liners within his own governing coalition. They have been putting intense pressure on Netanyahu to respond to the surge in violence with a tough crackdown and increased settlement activity.

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But Netanyahu is also wary of angering the American administration and risking another fully-fledged uprising with too tough a response that could lead to a higher number of casualties on both sides.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: Getty

The Jerusalem hilltop compound lies at the heart of recent tensions.

It’s revered by Muslims as the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and by Jews as the site of the two Jewish biblical Temples.

Many Palestinians believe Israel is trying to expand Jewish presence at the site, a claim Israel adamantly denies and considers slanderous. Under a longstanding arrangement administered by Islamic authorities, Jews are allowed to visit the site during certain hours but not pray there.

The latest Israeli-Palestinian unrest began about three weeks ago as Palestinians repeatedly barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque, located at the sacred site, and hurled stones, firebombs and fireworks at the police.

The violence later spread to Arab neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem and to the West Bank.