In recent weeks, Palestinian protests have gathered momentum against a campaign by far-right Jews to be allowed to pray where ancient Jewish temples once stood.
Last week Israel briefly shut down all access, in the same area, to what are also Jerusalem’s holiest sites to Muslims — the Dome of the Rock and the 8th-century al-Aqsa mosque — after a Palestinian gunman shot an Israeli ultra-nationalist, severely wounding him.
The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, visiting Jerusalem, said: “Exactly because there is a risk of growing tensions and going back to dramatic experiences we need, desperately need, to move the political dialogue forward.”
Palestinian drivers have also rammed pedestrians in Jerusalem, killing four people. The drivers were shot dead.
Israel’s prime minister blamed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, saying he had urged Palestinians to keep Jews away from Temple Mount.
Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The ramming in Jerusalem is a direct result of the incitement by Abu Mazen [Abbas] and his partners in Hamas. We are in a continuous battle over Jerusalem, which I have no doubt we will win.”
The religious advisor to President Abbas, Mahmoud al-Habash, said: “The continuation of this invasion of al-Aqsa Mosque is a warning of religious war. Maybe some people don’t know what a religious war means. A religious war means that every Israeli becomes a direct enemy of every Muslim around the world.”
For decades, Israel has maintained a precautionary ban on Jews praying at the al-Aqsa and Temple Mount site.
With the increase in violent clashes, experts now say the conditions are ripe for a renewed intifada, or popular uprising against Israeli authority.
Intifadas took place from 1987 till 1991 and from 2000 to 2005.
The Second Intifada burst from a visit seen as provocative by then leader of the opposition Likud party Ariel Sharon to the same sensitive site in Jerusalem.
Illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank also bring grief.
Just over two weeks ago, Palestinians accused an Israeli settler there of a hit and run drive killing of a five-year-old girl.
According to United Nations reports, incidents of settler violence against Palestinians have almost quadrupled since 2006.