A Third Intifada?

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Clashes broke out between Israeli police and Palestinians at the end of last month after reports spread that radical Jews entered the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. The fighting has so far remained relatively contained, but with rival factions Fatah and Hamas not getting along, and with Israel and the Obama administration differing on sensitive issues such as settlements, some worry that a third intifada could be brewing. Above, a Palestinian youth fires a sling shot at Israeli troops on Oct. 9 in Qalandia, south of Ramallah in the West Bank.


Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, is at the far right of the above photo, with its bluish-gray dome in partial view. With the shiny Dome of the Rock, it comprises a compound known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock sit on a platform known to Jews as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, which includes the Western Wall, to the left of the cluster of trees in the center of the photo. The First and Second Temples stood on this site during ancient times. After Israel took East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, it allowed the site to stay under Muslim control; however, Israel denies access to men under 50 and imposes other restrictions when security is a concern. Many Palestinians fear that Israel wants to demolish the mosque so that a temple can once again occupy the site.


Palestinian children, like the one above in East Jerusalem on Oct. 6, often get involved in the fighting and throw stones at Israeli forces. Palestinians say the latest outbreak of violence started after right-wing Jews were seen entering the Al-Aqsa compound to worship, in violation of agreements that put the site under Muslim control. Israeli authorities, however, claim immodestly dressed non-Jewish French tourists comprised the group.



Above, on Sept. 27, Israeli police intervene in clashes outside the Al-Aqsa compound. On Oct. 9, thousands of extra Israeli police were deployed to the Al-Aqsa area in order to keep the peace after Hamas called for a "day of rage" over the perceived threat to the holy site.



Jewish Israelis fear increased fighting in the area could lead to destruction of the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the Temple Mount where Jews pray and insert written prayers between the ancient stones comprising the wall. As a result, Israeli border police, seen above on Sept. 27, were deployed to prevent fighting near Judaism's holiest site.



After the rioting started, Israel barred entry for men under 50 to Al-Aqsa mosque, leading many worshipers to pray outside the compound under strict supervision, as seen above on Oct. 2.



The renewed violence coincided with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in which the devout cover tabernacles (booth-like structures) with palm branches. It begins a feast that marks the 40 years Jews are believed to have wandered in the desert after their exodus from Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish man above struggles to carry palm branches home on Oct. 1 in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood.


Model protester? During a rally in Gaza on Oct. 9, a Hamas member holds a model of the Dome of the Rock, the oldest extant Muslim monument (completed in 691) and occupying the site from which the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven. Palestinians in Gaza protested in solidarity with those in Jerusalem, but whereas Hamas called for violent protests in response to the perceived threat to Al-Aqsa, Fatah called for a strike and peaceful protest.


Christian evangelicals who support a Jewish state came from across the world to Israel to show their support and celebrate Sukkot. Above, they march in a parade in downtown Jerusalem on Oct. 6.


An impromptu media event arises when an Israeli border policeman drags away a Palestinian youth who was throwing rocks on Oct. 5 in East Jerusalem. Thousands of police deployed to Jerusalem's Old City that day, a sensitive time when some 30,000 Jewish worshipers attended a religious ceremony at the Western Wall during Sukkot.



Israeli police haul off a man detained on suspicion of throwing stones on Oct. 9 in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.


Intifada III? The Al-Aqsa mosque and Temple Mount area has repeatedly been a flash point for violence. For example, during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first term in 1996, he opened an exit in the Western Wall tunnel, sparking riots that left some 15 Israelis and 60 Palestinians dead. Many Palestinians had seen it as an attempt by Israel to appropriate Muslim sites and increase its grip on East Jerusalem. The second intifada in 2000 was started when Ariel Sharon, months before becoming prime minister, visited the holy site against Muslim wishes. With a dispute over the area yet again provoking violence, many fear the current uprising could turn ugly in a hurry.

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