Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem have called for a 'day of rage' this morning as peace talks have broken down, with Israeli forces refusing to remove security from an historic mosque that was closed after gun violence.
Tensions have been high in Jerusalem after last week saw three Palestinians and two Israeli police officers killed in gun violence in the compound of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli police subsequently closed the mosque, the first time it has been closed in decades, and Islamic Friday prayers at the site were not allowed.
The mosque is located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City. Known to Muslims as the Haram-ash Sharif, the mount is one of the most important religious sites in the world, and has been venerated for millennia.
On Sunday metal detectors were placed at the site by Israeli forces as a security precaution, prompting violent daily Palestinian-Israeli confrontations over what was perceived as an intrusion on a sacred site.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning decided metal detectors would not be removed, and men under 50 and barred from the mosque. Palestinian religious and political leaders called for a 'day of rage' in response, and Israel has heightened its security forces, bringing in thousands more police in expectation of unrest.
The delicate Temple Mount site has historically been open for access, and Jerusalem church leaders have been among those calling for a return to the status quo, urging peace and freedom of worship.
'Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo at the Temple Mount and the freedom of access to the holy places,' the security cabinet said in a statement.
'The cabinet has authorised the police to take any decision in order ensure free access to the holy places while maintaining security and public order.'
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Friday prayers would be enabled, albeit with security measures in place. Access to the shrine at Temple Mount has been limited to women of any age and men over 50. The government said security was necessary to stop weapons being smuggled into the compound by Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs.
Hatem Abdel-Kader, the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, was one of several officials arrested by Israel this morning, according to Middle East Eye, though reason for his arrest was not given.
'The Israeli offer to keep the metal detectors in place, but only require suspicious individuals to pass through them, was unreservedly rejected by the Palestinians,' he said.
He warned that without peaceful resolution 'there will be an escalation tomorrow. Clashes will inevitably continue, until freedom of religion is restored'.
Additional reporting by Reuters