Israel Closes Temple Mount Gate; Arabs Protest

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Israeli officials have closed the Mugrabi Gate, which is the only non-Muslim entrance to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, over safety concerns.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and one of the most sacred sites for Muslims.

Israelis believe the gate, which was built only as a temporary bridge, is unsafe. The city of Jerusalem had set a Nov. 28 deadline to destroy the bridge so another structure could be built.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu halted the demolition out of concern that the action would start riots in the Muslim world.

The Mugrabi Gate was erected after the previous ramp to the Temple Mount collapsed a 2004 snowstorm.

The government has come under criticism from some religious Jews for not destroying it and replacing it with a permanent bridge so Jews can enter the site.

Yehuda Glick, founder of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, said, "Israel doesn't know how to express its own independence in its own capital."

Muslim leaders argue that the structure is sound and shouldn't have been closed.  They say the planned work is part of a plot to destroy the Muslim holy sites, a charge Israel denies.

Israel has controlled the area around the Temple Mount since 1967 when the Jews took back Jerusalem in the Six-Day War. 

They have allowed Muslims to supervise the day-to-day activities on the Temple Mount, but Muslims rioted several times in the 1990s when Israel undertook construction activities.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, AP

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