- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2009

JERUSALEM | Israeli police mobilized reinforcements from across the country to secure volatile Jerusalem on Tuesday, deploying thousands of officers on city streets for fear that two days of minor clashes with Palestinian protesters would escalate.

By nightfall, no serious clashes had developed, and an Israeli Muslim leader was arrested on suspicion of helping spark the tension, the Associated Press reported.

Rumors that Jewish extremists planned to march on the most sacred Muslim and Jewish shrine in the Holy Land apparently fueled the unrest in Jerusalem, the city at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

No such march has taken place. But the low-level violence has inflamed political and religious passions, stoked breathless reports in the Israeli and Arab media and laid bare once again the tinderbox that is Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Tuesday the Israeli leader was “following the events” and holding consultations with security officials.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said thousands of police were called in to secure the city on Tuesday, describing the reinforcements as exceptional.

There were brief clashes with stone-throwing youths in an East Jerusalem neighborhood and at a checkpoint outside the city, but no serious injuries were reported.

The weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which draws many Jewish visitors to Jerusalem, has been the backdrop for the recent unrest. On Tuesday, Israel again accused Muslim leaders from the country’s Arab minority of inciting the disturbances.

Palestinian officials accused Israel of triggering violence, one even warning of a “battle of Jerusalem,” Reuters news agency reported.

The compound that rises above Jerusalem’s old city with its golden-domed mosque is a holy place for both Muslims and Jews, and has often been a flashpoint of tension.

Mohammad Dahlan, a leader in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, said Mr. Netanyahu “has opened the battle of Jerusalem.”

He stressed that Fatah was seeking “peaceful activities,” but warned of an “explosion in the region.”

He compared the week’s events to violence that erupted after Ariel Sharon visited the site in 2000, triggering a Palestinian uprising against Israel. Mr. Sharon later became prime minister.

Israel and the Palestinians both lay claim to the holy city, with Israel insisting it will retain control of all of the city and Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as its future capital.

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