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Jordan condemns visit of 'extremist' Jews to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque

AFP , Monday 15 Aug 2016
Al-Aqsa compound mosque
Israeli occupation forces stand guard as a group of Orthodox Jewish men leave after visiting the al-Aqsa mosque compound,commemorating the destruction of ancient Jerusalem temples some 2000 years ago, on August 14, 2016, in Jerusalem's Old City.(AFP)

Jordan on Monday condemned Israel for allowing "extremist" Jews to visit Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound saying such action could spark a "religious war".

Jordan is the custodian of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and has repeatedly denounced what it says are violations of rules at the site, Islam's third holiest.

Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray on the esplanade in order to avoid tensions with Muslims who worship there.

Revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, the mosque compound is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

On Sunday, about 400 Jews entered the compound to commemorate the destruction of two ancient temples, but several who tried to pray there were expelled by Israeli police while two were detained.

Jordan's Minister of Islamic Affairs and Awqaf (religious property), Wael Arabiyat, denounced Israel for allowing "Zionist extremists" to enter and pray at the compound.

"Pursuing such measures could spark a religious war in the region," Arabiyat warned.

Arabiyat also denounced Israeli police for allegedly "arresting and beating" Muslim worshippers at the site.

Israeli police on Sunday said Muslims had gathered around two Jews who were being expelled from the compound and began yelling at them.

Police pushed them away and three Muslims were slightly injured in the scuffle.

Jordan's King Abdullah II also denounced "repeated violations and transgressions by Israel and extremist groups and their blatant attempts to change the status quo in Jerusalem," in an interview published Monday by the semi-official Addustour newspaper.

"We will persist in undertaking our religious and historical responsibilities towards Al-Aqsa mosque.... which faces repeated violations by extremist groups," he said.

"As the Custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, I will continue my efforts to protect these places and stand up against all violations of their sanctity," he said.

Jews on Sunday were commemorating the religious day of mourning known as Tisha B'av.

Palestinian fears of Israeli intentions to undermine Muslim control of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound were a key factor in a wave of violence that erupted 10 months ago.

Palestinians argue that Israel is seeking to change the status quo at the compound, a claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly denied.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed the territory in a move never recognised by the international community.

The current wave of protests by Palestinians and repression by Israeli occupation forces started in late July when toddler Ali Dawabsha was burned to death and three other Palestinians were severely injured after their house in the occupied West Bank was set on fire by Israeli settlers.

Settlement-building, racial discrimination, confiscation of identity cards, long queues at checkpoints, as well as daily clashes and the desecration of Al-Aqsa mosque, describe Palestinians' daily suffering.

The anger of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem has increased in the last three years after the Israeli authorities allowed increasing numbers of Jewish settlers to storm the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The surge in violence has been fuelled by Palestinians' frustration over Israel's 48-year occupation of land they seek for an independent state, and the expansion of settlements in those territories which were captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinian leaders say a younger generation sees no hope for the future living under Israeli security restrictions and with a stifled economy. The latest round of U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in April 2014.

*The story has been edited by Ahram Online.

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