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Israel reassures Jordan on Al-Aqsa as extremists rally

AFP , Thursday 6 Nov 2014
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Views: 951

Israel on Thursday promised Jordan that it would not allow Jews to pray at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound as scores of Jewish extremists tried to march to the flashpoint shrine.

With clashes raging in several Palestinian neighbourhoods in annexed east Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with Jordan's King Abdullah II to personally reassure him there would be no changes to the decades-old status quo.

It came 24 hours after a tense confrontation at the mosque compound as the Israeli occupation forces clashed with Palestinian protests on Wednesday inside Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem -- prompting Jordan to recall its ambassador.

"I spoke today to King Abdullah of Jordan and we agreed that we will make every effort to calm the situation," Netanyahu said.

"I explained to him that we're keeping the status quo on the Temple Mount and that this includes Jordan's traditional role there," he said, using Israel's name for the compound which once housed the two Jewish temples, instead of Al Aqsa mosque.

Under the current status quo, Jews are permitted to visit the esplanade but not to pray there for fear it would cause friction at one of the most sensitive holy sites in the Middle East.

King Abdullah for his part "recalled that Jordan firmly rejected any measure undermining the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque," according to a palace statement.

Jordan, which administered the West Bank including east Jerusalem before Israel seized it in 1967, has responsibility for managing the mosque compound and other holy sites in the city's Israeli-occupied eastern sector, as enshrined in the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.

As Netanyahu spoke, around 100 Jewish zealots gathered near the Old City for a march "to the gates of the Temple Mount."

"We are proudly marching with high heads to the direction of the Temple Mount. God willing, we'll get there," organiser Ariel Groner told AFP.

The demonstrators then began marching to the Western Wall plaza but said they would not try to enter the esplanade which is situated just above it.

Elsewhere in the occupied eastern sector of the city, Israeli occupation police clashed with Palestinians.

East Jerusalem has been gripped by unrest for months, but the tensions surged on Wednesday at Al-Aqsa, largely triggered by Palestinian fears that Israel was poised to allow Jewish prayer at the site.

*The story was edited by Ahram Online

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