The Daily Telegraph reports: Dawn marks the beginning of a perilous hour in the Old City of Jerusalem. After sunrise, thousands of Muslims and Jews gather to perform their respective devotions at the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Western Wall.
They are only a stone’s throw apart – and, sadly, that metaphor is only too apt. Every day brings a new risk of bloodshed in a place where the holiest site of Judaism is found alongside the third holiest of Islam.
Preventing a conflagration in the tinderbox of the Old City must be the toughest policing job in the world. The task falls to 600 Israeli policemen with the unique beat represented by the warren of alleys enclosed within the Ottoman walls of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
In other cities, the worst that police have to fear if a public order incident gets out of hand is a riot. In Jerusalem, the worst case scenario hardly bears thinking about. A bloody clash near the holy places could trigger a new Palestinian “intifada”, or uprising. Any perceived threat to the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock would cause fury across the Muslim world.
The atmosphere is particularly febrile at present because of the frequent stabbing attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, with 110 incidents since last October.
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