Bethlehem – Ma’an – The European Union’s top foreign policy official called on all sides to exercise restraint after days of Palestinian demonstrations against the Israeli occupation of the city.
"I am very concerned about the recent clashes in East Jerusalem. I have been closely following the situation around the Al-Aqsa mosque in recent days,” said Javier Solana, the EU’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
“I would like to urge all parties to refrain from provocative actions that could further inflame tensions or lead to violence,” Solana said in a statement. “Everyone must take action to avoid escalation. Our continued priority remains the re-launching credible negotiations in an atmosphere conducive to their success."
The US government was also reported to be pressing Israel and Palestinian officials to calm the situation in Jerusalem after unrest that began when right-wing Israelis were reported entering the sensitive Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.
Demonstrations in reaction to the reported intrusion have pitted stone-throwing demonstrators against Israeli police and soldiers armed with automatic rifles and tear gas grenades.
Israeli forces maintained an intensive presence in and around Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday, which residents compared to a “siege.” An estimated 200 protesters remain holed up in Al-Aqsa in an ongoing standoff with police who have threatened to arrest them.