Israel declares entrance to Temple Mount "dangerous structure"

Photo: Israel declares entrance to Temple Mount "dangerous structure" / Arab-Israel Relations

Jerusalem's local council has called for the destruction of a temporary access bridge to the Temple Mount, or Harm al-Sharif, a site sacred to both Jews and Muslims in the disputed city, dpa reported.

The construction of a new, permanent ramp after the original collapsed in early 2004 due to erosion, snowfall and a minor earthquake has been the subject of heated controversy.

Excavations at the site after the ramp collapsed sparked riots in early 2007, as radical Islamist leaders accused Israel of trying to undermine the Temple Mount/Harm al-Sharif's foundations.

The city's chief engineer and fire department had declared the wooden bridge "dangerous to the public," Stephan Miller, a spokesman for Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, confirmed Tuesday.

He called the temporary wooden structure resting on scaffolding "extremely flammable" and said the municipality had instructed the government foundation that administers the plot on which the structure rests to tear it down within 30 days.

The municipality had also sent a letter to the secretary of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet, a copy of which was sent dpa, to immediately allow building to begin on a permanent ramp made of non-flammable material, he said.

The Israeli Peace Now organization accused Barkat, Jerusalem's Israeli and secular but nationalist mayor, of playing with fire by ordering its destruction.

"What Israel doesn't need now is another provocation in the most sensitive site in the Middle East," it said.

But Barkat's spokesman said the temporary structure had been in place for too long and put millions of visitors at risk.

"The Mayor's concerns lie first and foremost with the well-being of Jerusalem's residents and visitors. Politics play no role in decisions about safety and security," Miller said in a statement.

The bridge gives access to the Temple Mount or Harm al-Sharif to non-Muslims and tourists through the Mughrabi Gate.

Both Muslims and Jews routinely complain about any change in the status quo at holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The elevated plateau of Temple Mount/Harm al-Sharif in Jerusalem's walled Old City houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, but also the remnants of the destroyed Jewish Biblical Temple.

The wooden Mughrabi bridge was built as a temporary solution shortly after the old sand ramp collapsed.

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