Palestinians and Israeli forces clash outside al-Aqsa
Thursday’s expected protests follow days of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem over the new security measures introduced at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Metal detectors and turnstiles were installed at the holy site after a deadly shoot-out there on Friday.
In that incident, two Israeli security officers were killed in an alleged attack by three Palestinians, who were killed by Israeli police following the violence.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone from Hungary with Israel’s security chiefs to hear their assessments and recommendations, according to a statement by his office.
Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet, has recommended that the metal detectors be removed, but Jerusalem police have said that the barriers should stay in place.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said Palestinians are “incredibly worried” about the police stance.
“They see this as an escalation of Israeli sovereignty over al-Aqsa compound,” Khan said. “Palestinians are asking what happens next.”
READ MORE – Timeline: Critical events at the al-Aqsa Mosque
Netanyahu said on Friday that he did not want to alter the status quo, which gives Muslims religious control over the compound and Jews the right to visit, but not pray there.
But Palestinians fear Israel is trying to retake the site by stealth.
The site houses al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina, as well as the ruins of the Biblical Jewish Temple.
Muslims know the site as al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, while Jews refer to the place of worship as Temple Mount.
Abbas to mediate
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cut short his trip to China on Wednesday to return to Palestine to deal with the mounting tensions.
His office said he had been touch with Arab and international leaders to try to “prevent a deterioration of the situation”.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Jerusalem’s top Muslim leader called on all of the city’s mosques to close on Friday in protest of the new security measures.
READ MORE: Israel’s closure of al-Aqsa a ‘collective punishment’
Grand Mufti Muhammad Hussein said Palestinian Muslims should instead gather outside the gates of al-Aqsa Mosque for the weekly Friday prayers.
Questions about control of the site frequently lead to outbursts of fighting.
After last Friday’s alleged attack, Israel closed off the area, preventing Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time in decades.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies