The wall is believed by devout Jews to be the Western Wall of the Second Temple. The temple's original location is in dispute, leading some Arabs to dispute the claim that the wall belongs to the temple--arguing, instead, that it is part of the structure of Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.
The structure's description as the "Wailing Wall" derives from its Arabic identification as el-Mabka, or "Place of Weeping," frequently repeated by European, and particularly French, travelers to the Holy Land in the 19th century as "le mur des lamentations."
Sectarian and ideological claims aside, the Wailing Wall remains a sacred place for Jews and others, who often pray, sometimes wail, and sometimes slip prayers written on paper through the wall's welcoming fissures. In July 2009, Alon Nil launched a free service allowing people around the world to Twitter their prayers, which are then taken in printed form to the Wailing Wall.
Israel annexed Arab East Jerusalem immediately after the 1967 Six Day War and claimed ownership of the city's religious sites, as it does today. Incensed (and fearing that the tunnel was designed to undermine the foundations of Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site after the mosques in Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, Palestinians and other Muslims rioted, triggering a clash with Israeli forces that left five Arabs dead and hundreds wounded.