Jews rally near tense holy site in memory of murdered teen
JERUSALEM - Jewish hardliners and Israeli right-wing politicians rallied near a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem on Tuesday in support of a family whose 13-year-old daughter was murdered by a Palestinian.
The provocative rally of a few hundred people was also attended by the girl's parents, who later joined dozens of others in visiting the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque compound, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
The compound is one of the most potent symbols of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Clashes frequently erupt there between Israeli police and Palestinians who suspect Israel of seeking to change rules governing it.
The parents' visit along with relatives and supporters took place under heavy police guard.
Hardliners at the rally near the site spoke of building a new Jewish temple at the highly sensitive compound.
One man wore a t-shirt saying: "There's no such thing as Palestine," as well as a necklace with a bullet dangling from it.
A few confused tourists looked on while queueing to visit the compound.
The girl's parents, from an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, addressed the crowd before visiting the site and called for the bridge leading to it to be named for their daughter.
"Our daughter's heart was stabbed. We're strengthening the nation's heart," said Rina Ariel, the mother of Hallel Yaffa Ariel.
"This is the nation's heart," she said of the holy site. "Come up with us."
The compound is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.
Jews are allowed to visit the compound, but are barred from praying there to avoid provoking tensions.
It is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.
Jews consider it their most sacred as the location of the first and second temples, destroyed by the Babylonians and the Romans.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly he has no intention of changing the rules, but Jewish hardliners have long pushed for prayer rights.
They include those from his own governing coalition, such as Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who attended the rally with other right-wing politicians and is also a relative of the family.
He could not visit the holy site as parliament members are not currently allowed to do so due to its sensitivity.
The 13-year-old was stabbed to death in her bedroom in the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba in the occupied West Bank on June 30.
The Palestinian who killed her, who was 19, was shot dead by a guard.
Kiryat Arba is located on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Hebron, where tensions run high between Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents.
Several hundred settlers live in the heart of Hebron under heavy guard among some 200,000 Palestinians.
The murder was part of of a wave of violence since last October that has killed at least 214 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese.
Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.
Others were shot dead during protests and clashes, while some were killed by Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip.