UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians and Jordanians urged the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to demand that Israel immediately stop provocations and incitement against Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, warning that further escalation could lead to another crisis threatening peace in the Middle East.
The warning followed what the Palestinians described as the illegal storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque earlier Wednesday by Israeli extremists protected by more than 300 Israeli security forces, which led to a confrontation with Palestinian worshippers. A Hamas militant reportedly angered by the confrontation later drove a minivan into a crowd waiting for a train, killing one person and wounding 13. Hours later, a Palestinian motorist drove into a group of soldiers in the West Bank, injuring three.
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor sent what the Israeli Mission called a "sarcastic letter" to the Security Council listing acts of incitement by the Palestinian leadership, including last month's drive-by shooting of a Jewish activist who has pushed for greater Jewish access to the sacred hilltop compound.
Prosor's letter noted the council's failure to "utter a word" about "this blatantly dangerous provocation."
The compound is revered by both Jews and Muslims. Jews call it the Temple Mount because of the Jewish temples that once stood there. Muslims refer to it as the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, marking the place where they believe Islam's Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he won't allow changes to a long-standing ban on Jewish worship at the Muslim-run site, despite demands from ultranationalists in his coalition government. But Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour said Wednesday that "actions blatantly intended to assert Israeli control over the compound continue unabated."
Mansour said in a letter to the Security Council that stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets were fired early Wednesday at Palestinian worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, seriously injuring at least 30 people.
He said the extremists desecrated holy sites, including by entering one mosque in the compound and climbing on the altar wearing shoes in "a shameful sign of disrespect" for Muslims, who leave their shoes outside as a sign of respect.
Jordan's U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar said in a separate letter to the council that Israeli special forces and police prohibited Muslim worshippers from entering and allowed religious and political extremists inside the compound.
"This blatant and unlawful use of force against one of the holiest sites on earth for Muslims have resulted in fires breaking out, damage to mosaic works on ceilings and to the structure of the building, burning of the carpets and rugs and damage to other facilities," she said.
Jordan's King Abdullah II is the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and Kawar accused Israeli forces of violating the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries by detaining Jordanian employees responsible for administering and maintaining the sites.
Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel, and Kawar urged the Security Council to hold Israel accountable for Wednesday's attack and take steps to stop further violations against Muslim holy sites.
Kawar told The Associated Press that Jordan would like the council to adopt a presidential statement, which becomes part of its official record, and will be presenting "elements" for the text to members on Thursday.
"Definitely the situation deserves that," she said. "The situation is very uncomfortable and dangerous, and they've gone way overboard in the last violation."
Mansour said the Palestinians also will press for a vote this month on a draft resolution that would set November 2016 as the deadline for Israeli troops to withdraw from all Palestinian territories.
The United States, Israel's closest ally, will almost certainly insist that any council statement also mention the recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis.