Barkat on Temple Mount
Barkat on Temple Mount Jerusalem Municipality Spokesman

Islamist groups have decried the visit to the Temple Mount by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Tuesday morning.

On his early-morning visit, mayor Nir Barkat toured the Mount together with a police escort, after weeks of intermittent clashes fueled by Islamist groups on the site. 

But police said the day passed in "relative calm" after weeks of tension at Judaism's holiest site.

Barkat "visited the Temple Mount together with the chief of police responsible for the area to assess the current situation and gain a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges at the site," a statement said.

However, the Waqf claimed the visit had "not been coordinated" with them.

It was "merely for publicity and its political nature is characteristic of" Barkat, Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Waqf, told AFP.

In a statement, the radical Al-Aqsa Foundation also condemned what it described as the "storming" of the compound by Barkat - a term used by Islamist groups to describe any Jewish visits to the site.

"This does not give any legitimacy to considering Al-Aqsa part of the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem (Israeli) municipality, and does not erase the eternal Islamic character of the mosque," said the foundation, an offshoot of Israel's Hamas-aligned Islamic Movement.

Barkat toured the Temple Mount together with the commander of the Israel Police's David District, Brig.-Gen. Avi Biton, and City Director Amnon Merhav.

Non-Muslim visits are permitted and regulated by police, but Jews are not allowed to pray there - despite it being their holiest site - in what Jewish activists have condemned as a capitulation to threats by Muslim extremists.

But the Jordanian government, which runs the Waqf, has been perhaps the most influential party in pressuring the Israeli government not to change the current status-quo at the site and allow Jewish prayers.

It was Jordan which requested the Security Council meeting at the urging of the Palestinian Authority to discuss Israeli building plans in Jerusalem, diplomats said.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Jordan's King Abdullah II has been pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to allow a proposed bill enabling equal prayer rights for Jews to pass. 

Tuesday's mayoral visit, which came a day after Palestinian Authority "unity government" prime minister Rami Hamdallah also toured the site, passed off without incident, police said, although spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there were scattered incidents elsewhere in Jerusalem with police firing teargas and stun grenades at Palestinian stone-throwers.

Among the trouble spots was the Silwan neighbourhood, he said, where Arab extremists have been rioting against the presence of Jewish families.

Clashes again intensified last week after a Palestinian terrorist from Silwan drove his car into Jerusalem pedestrians, killing an infant and a young woman. He was shot dead by police while trying to flee the scene.

AFP contributed to this report