Hamas warns over Jewish visits to flashpoint Jerusalem mosque

AFP , Ahram Online , Thursday 22 Sep 2022

Hamas threatened 'repercussions' over Jewish visits to Jerusalem's super-sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound, in a warning issued Thursday, days before the start of the Jewish high holidays when visitor numbers increase.

Jerusalem, Palestine
File Photo: An Israeli police officer stands guard as Jewish men visit the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, during the annual mourning ritual of Tisha B Av (the ninth of Av) -- a day of fasting and a memorial day, commemorating the destruction of ancient Jerusalem temples, in the Old City of Jerusalem, Sunday, July 18, 2021. AP


The mosque compound in the Old City of Israel-annexed east Jerusalem has been the focus of tensions for years, but Palestinians have voiced increasing anger at the rising number of visits by Jews, who revere the compound as their holiest site, the Temple Mount.

The Al-Aqsa compound is Islam's third holiest site and is managed by Jordan.

Mahmud Zahar, a senior member of Hamas, warned that "the continuation of the Zionist aggression and their brutality against Jerusalem and the holy shrines will be the cause of a major battle."

Speaking in a rare press conference in Gaza's Omari mosque, Zahar alluded to Palestinian concerns that a longstanding convention by which Jews may visit but not pray in Al-Aqsa compound, Islam's third holiest site,  was being covertly flouted.

He said Israel would be held "fully responsible for the repercussions of these violations."

Beyadenu, a group that encourages Jews to visit the compound, said it was committed to increasing such visits.

"We broke the 50,000 visitor barrier on the Temple Mount" this past year, Beyadenu said ahead of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana.

Tom Nissani, the group's chief executive said: "the goal is 100,000 visitors next (Jewish) year", which begins on Sunday night.

Israeli far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has led multiple actions in Jerusalem in the past designed to provoke Palestinians, tweeted Thursday that he "went up to the Temple Mount this morning to pray and exercise sovereignty in the holiest place for the people of Israel."

Thousands of Jews -- Israelis and tourists -- are expected to visit Jerusalem's Old City during the high holidays, which run into mid-October.

Since 2003, the Israeli occupation authorities have allowed settlers into the compound on an almost daily basis, with the exclusion of Friday, the Muslim day of rest and worship.

The Islamic Waqf, the Jordanian authority in charge of the holy sites in Jerusalem, has repeatedly described the settlers' presence in Al-Aqsa Mosque as "provocative", saying that Palestinian worshippers and guards at Al-Aqsa feel uncomfortable with the presence of Israeli police and settlers touring the Islamic holy site.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, in 1967 in a move that has not been recognised by the international community.

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