ADDENDUM: I wrote the post below before the riots that erupted on the Temple Mount on Friday. Protesters in Nazareth, meanwhile, carried signs calling on the Muslim world to react to the "Jewish assault on [al-Aqsa]."
There has been a great deal of commotion about Israeli construction and excavation projects near the Temple Mount in recent days. Accusations by the waqf and by various Palestinian groups that Israel is damaging the al-Aqsa mosque in particular or the Haram al-Sharif more generally are longstanding. In several instances in the past, Muslim leaders have complained about the "desecration" of these areas by the State of Israel or by Jews. All too often, these accusations have been utterly spurious, serving to incite Arabs in Israel and abroad.
This time around, there is controversy about two different projects. The first is the excavation of a tunnel under the City of David by two Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists. Archaeologists recently discovered what they believe to be a road used by pilgrims during the Second Temple era that led through Jerusalem and to the temple. They are planning to lay bare the whole road, from the village of Silwan to the Bab al-Mughrabi [Mughrabi Gate or Gate of the North Africans, also known as the "Dung Gate"] and perhaps even to the Temple Mount. It turns out that the excavations that have been going on recently are actually illegal under Israeli law, as it is proceeding without a license (Ha'aretz).
A different project is the construction of a new bridge to replace the old ramp to the Bab al-Mughrabi, which collapsed. It is important to point out that this gate, which in Hebrew is called the שער האשפות (Garbage or Dung Gate) is also the only one by which Jews and other non-Muslims can currently access the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif, whichever you prefer. All the other gates are open to Muslims only. It was to be expected that the inflammatory leader of the Islamist Movement's Northern Branch in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, would protest any construction by Israel. But now even the Egyptian Foreign Ministry is weighing in. In a statement to the Israeli ambassador, the Egyptians declared that
the sacredness of the site makes any movement inside or around it a very sensitive issue for Arab and Muslim peoples, in a way that could cause the situation to explode (Ha'aretz).Never mind that it is also Judaism's holiest site.
Interestingly enough, the waqf itself has not yet launched protests against this construction, which is taking place entirely outside the Temple Mount. The Islamist Movement seems to have taken the opportunity to incite its followers once again. This is in line with previous statements by the Sheikh to the effect that Israel was preparing to seize the al-Aqsa mosque.