JERUSALEM: Members of the Zionist security forces stand guard as a group of Orthodox Jews enters the Al-Aqsa mosque compound yesterday. - AFP

JERUSALEM: Zionist police clashed with Muslim protestors yesterday at a flashpoint Jerusalem Old City shrine as Jews were headed there to mark a religious holiday, police said. The tensions and the Jewish pilgrimage to the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound were condemned by the Palestinians.

The Zionist entity's rightwing nationalist Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stood by the state's decision to allow Jews to visit the site. The EU delegation to the Palestinian territories in a tweet said it was "concerned over ongoing tensions" and urged that there be no "acts of incitement". It also called for respect for the site's status quo and urged Zionist, religious and community leaders to urgently "calm down this explosive situation".

The incident took place on the Jewish festival of Tisha B'av, marking the day of the year thousands of years ago when, according to tradition, both Jewish temples located on the Temple Mount were destroyed. The holy site lies in east Jerusalem, which the Zionist entity occupied and annexed in 1967, but is administered by the Muslim Waqf organization.

The Waqf condemned the "violations and attacks" carried out by "Jewish fanatic groups, with the support and political cover of the (Zionist) government," it said in a statement carried by official Palestinian website Wafa, claiming the Zionist entity was "aiming for a religious war". And the Palestinian Authority accused the Zionist entity of "tampering with the security and stability of the region" by enabling the "incursions" of worshippers.

Newly sworn-in premier Bennett, who is from the Zionist entity's religious right but heads a coalition including leftist and Islamist parties, said he had "instructed that the organized and safe visits by Jews to the Temple Mount continue, while maintaining order at the site".

In a second statement following the Waqf and PA condemnations, Bennett stressed that "freedom of worship on the Temple Mount will be fully preserved for Muslims as well", pointing to the upcoming festival of Eid al-Adha. Two years ago, when the Jewish and Muslim holidays coincided, violence at the site left dozens of Palestinians wounded and led to seven arrests. - AFP