Israeli appeal court overturns ruling on Jewish prayer at Al Aqsa
An Israeli appeal court overturned on Wednesday a ruling by a lower magistrate who stirred Palestinian anger by questioning the legality of barring Jewish prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third most holy site in Islam.
Al Aqsa mosque compound, which Jews say contains remnants of their two ancient temples, is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under a decades-old "status quo" arrangement with Muslim authorities, Israel allows Jews to visit only if they refrain from religious rites.
Three Jewish youths who received a restraining order after praying at the site successfully challenged the police decision at Jerusalem Magistrates Court, which ruled on Sunday that their actions had not constituted a breach of the peace.
That prompted protests from the Palestinian leadership, condemnation from Jordan and Qatar, and a reassurance from the Israeli government that the status quo would be preserved.
In recent days however Jewish extremists have regularly stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, under the protection of Israeli security forces, performing provocative rituals.
Dozens of Palestinians were injured this Ramadan as security forces assaulted worshippers at the mosque.
Some of the Jewish extremists wish to demolish the mosque and build a temple in its place.
The Israeli government filed a counter-appeal on Wednesday against the lower court's decision with Jerusalem District Court, which found in favour after nightfall.
"The special sensitivity of the Temple Mount cannot be overstated," Judge Einat Avman-Moller said in her ruling, using the Israeli term for a site Muslims know as the Noble Sanctuary.
A right to freedom of Jewish worship there "is not absolute, and should be superseded by other interests, among them the safeguarding of public order," she said.
Tensions around the mosque have been further stoked by a flag march due to be held by Israeli right-wing extremists in Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday, marking its capture by Israel in the1967 war.
East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel in violation of international law ever since.
The annual event is resented by Palestinians, who want the Old City and other parts of East Jerusalem as capital of their hoped-for future state.
(Reporting by Reuters and The New Arab Staff)