The UN Mideast envoy is warning that "the dangers on the ground will escalate" if the crisis over Israel's installation of metal detectors at Jerusalem's holiest site isn't resolved by the time of Muslim prayers on Friday.
Nikolay Mladenov told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council behind closed doors on Monday that it is "critically important" that the status quo which has been in place at the site since 1967 is preserved.
Muslim religious leaders alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the compound, which includes the Al Aqsa mosque, under the guise of security, a claim Israel denied.
Mladenov said he urged Security Council members to use their influence with both sides to de-escalate the situation and ensure that the status quo is preserved while security is provided for worshippers and visitors.
He called the latest events "a step backwards", urging the international community to focus on bringing the two sides back to negotiations.