Skip to main content

Temple Mount reopens amid growing tensions in Jerusalem

After the killing of Palestinian Iyad al-Hallak by an Israeli police officer, authorities fear conflict is brewing on the Temple Mount.
Worshippers pray on the compound housing al-Aqsa mosque, which is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, as it reopened to worshippers after a two-and-a-half month closure due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Jerusalem's Old City May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad - RC2HZG9OOZMA

The Temple Mount compound reopened on May 31 to both Muslims and Jews after being closed for more than two months. Hundreds of worshippers arrived to the site on Sunday, after the announcement on the opening. Muslims are still not allowed to enter Al-Aqsa mosque. The mosque and the Dome of the Rock remain closed to all visitors, with Muslim prayers held in the open in marked areas. The current instructions for all prayer houses are in place for the Temple Mount, limiting public gatherings to 50 people. Jews are allowed to visit under the usual conditions of entering the complex at specific time slots in the morning and in the afternoon, and without praying.

Hundreds of Muslim worshipers waited outside the gates to the Temple Mount complex at dawn on Sunday, many of them singing, “With blood and spirit we will redeem al-Aqsa." The site had 206 Jewish visitors, including several former Knesset members on the political right.

Leaders of the Muslim Waqf, which manages the site, refused at the beginning of the pandemic to ban Muslims from entry. They changed their minds on March 15 as the virus spread. The Israeli police placed a blanket ban on Jews visiting the site for the same reason. According to some reports, Israel, Jordan (which is also involved in the management of the site) and the Waqf authorities reached an agreement to close the site, with only a handful of Waqf officials authorized to enter. Reacting to these reports, Israeli activists petitioned the court for the ban to be lifted, but the request was rejected.

Israel’s government agreed to reopen prayer houses as of May 20. But the reopening of mosques was delayed until after Eid al-Fitr on May 24 to avoid mass gatherings, with the reopening of Temple Mount compound set for June 1, after the Muslim Eid and after the Jewish Shavuot holiday. Still, the reopening of the site comes at a particularly tense moment in Jerusalem, with police apprehensive over possible conflicts and riots.

On May 30, an Israeli police officer shot and killed autistic 32-year-old Iyad al-Hallak, sparking outrage among Palestinians. Hallak was shot in Jerusalem’s old city, with police claiming he had appeared to be holding a gun. According to reports, Hallak was unarmed and had apparently not understood officers’ orders to halt. The killing of Hallak generated large demonstrations in East Jerusalem, and hundreds of people attended his funeral procession on May 31.

Despite the growing tensions in the city, Israel police reported that the reopening of the especially volatile Temple Mount compound went relatively calmly. Police detained eight Muslims after they allegedly shouted nationalistic slogans at a group of Jews visiting the site, trying to disrupt their visit. But no major conflicts were reported.


Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Palestine Briefing Palestine Briefing

Palestine Briefing

Top Palestine stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial