An Israeli border guard fires tear gas at Palestinian protesters near the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the occupied West Bank on July 24, 2017
An Israeli border guard fires tear gas at Palestinian protesters near the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the occupied West Bank on July 24, 2017 © ABBAS MOMANI - AFP
An Israeli border guard fires tear gas at Palestinian protesters near the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the occupied West Bank on July 24, 2017
Mike Smith, AFP
Last updated: January 1, 1970

Trump envoy heads to Israel for holy site crisis talks

The UN warned Monday that the crisis over new security measures at a volatile Jerusalem holy site must be swiftly resolved, as a top US official arrived in Israel to try to ease tensions.

The crisis, which saw a weekend of deadly violence, was also discussed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah II of Jordan, a day after an Israeli guard at its embassy in Amman shot two Jordanians dead after an attack.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov's warning and the visit by US President Donald Trump's top aide Jason Greenblatt come after more than a week of tensions over the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the site, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, after an attack on July 14 that killed two policemen.

"It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday this week," Mladenov said after briefing the UN Security Council, which met to discuss how to defuse the tension.

"The dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayer without a resolution to this current crisis," he said, warning that violence there could spread "beyond the Middle East itself".

Palestinians view the new security measures as Israel asserting further control over the site. They have refused to enter the compound in protest and have prayed in the streets outside instead.

Israeli authorities say the metal detectors are needed because the July 14 attackers smuggled guns into the site and emerged from it to shoot the officers.

Clashes have broken out during protests over the measures, leaving five Palestinians dead.

Three Israelis were also killed when a Palestinian sneaked into a house in a West Bank settlement and stabbed them.

- Netanyahu, Abdullah II speak -

Greenblatt met Netanyahu along with US envoy to Israel David Friedman Monday, an Israeli official told AFP.

In Amman, Jordan insisted on questioning an Israeli embassy security guard who according to Israeli officials shot dead a Jordanian attacker Sunday night, killing a second Jordanian at the time as well, apparently by accident.

Israel said the guard had diplomatic immunity.

He arrived back in Israel late Monday along with the rest of the embassy staff, a statement from Netanyahu's office said, but details of how we was able to return were not given.

It followed a phone conversation between Netanyahu and King Abdullah, who reiterated Jordan's demand that Israel remove all the recent security measures at the Al-Aqsa compound, an official Jordanian statement said.

Jordan is the official custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

The king stressed "the need to find an immediate solution and remove the reasons for the ongoing crisis at the Haram al-Sharif compound", the statement said.

The head of Israel's Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, visited Amman Monday to try to calm the situation, the internal security agency told AFP.

Israeli officials have signalled they may be open to changing the measures at the holy site. Cameras have been installed at entrances in a possible indication of an alternative to the metal detectors.

- 'Playing with fire' -

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit has accused Israel of "playing with fire" with the new security measures, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called them an insult to the Muslim world.

Arriving back in Ankara late Monday at the end of a trip to the Gulf, Erdogan went further still, accusing Israel of flouting international law.

"Israel is mistaken in the steps it has taken and -- I will say this very openly -- is heading into isolation," he warned.

Friday's main weekly Muslim prayers -- which typically draw thousands to Al-Aqsa -- brought the situation to a boil.

Clashes erupted between Israeli security forces and Palestinians around the Old City, elsewhere in annexed east Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank, leaving three Palestinians dead.

They continued on Saturday, leaving two more Palestinians dead.

Friday evening also saw a Palestinian break into a home in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank during a Sabbath dinner and stab four Israelis, killing three.

The Israeli army said the 19-year-old Palestinian had spoken in a Facebook post of the holy site and of dying as a martyr.

The holy site in Jerusalem has served as a rallying cry for Palestinians.

It is in east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Considered the third holiest site in Islam, it is the most sacred for Jews.

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