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King Abdullah: Israeli violations at Al-Aqsa 'attempt to Judaize identity of the mosque'

Aug. 15, 2016 2:49 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 15, 2016 6:53 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- King Abdullah II of Jordan made a statement Monday regarding recent Israeli violations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, saying that Israeli raids of the Muslim holy compound were “an attempt to impose a new reality, Judaize the identity of the mosque, and change history.”

In an interview with Jordanian newspaper al-Dustour, the King said that the Jordanian authority was “constantly updated with the situation in the Al-Aqsa mosque,” and expressed that “efforts are made to stop Israeli violations against every Arab citizen and holy Christian and Muslim places in Jerusalem,” though he did not cite specific efforts in detail.

“We will always perform our Islamic and historic responsibility towards Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is being raided continuously by Israeli extremists, we will also perform our duty as guardians of the Christian and Muslim holy places in Jerusalem against any Israeli violation,” the king said.

King Abdullah added that the protection of Islamic holy places in Jerusalem remained a priority, and that “Jordan is going to use all authority to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound against Israeli attempts of dividing it.”

“The Palestinian cause is the first priority and a supreme national interest," he said, emphasizing that allowing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to escalate was weakening the chances of establishing a two-state solution.

The third holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

While Jewish visitation is permitted to the Al-Aqsa compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Despite this agreement, Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site -- often under armed guard. Such visits are typically made by right-wingers, and as stated by King Abdullah, usually attempt to unsettle the status quo at the site, and coincide with restrictions on Palestinian access, including bans on entrance and detentions.

At least 18 Palestinians, including a minor, sustained injuries at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday when clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces who were escorting hundreds of worshipers commemorating the Jewish fasting holy day of Tisha B'av, the day in which Jews believe the First and Second Temples were destroyed.

Israeli police began enforcing heightened security measures around the compound at noon prayers at the mosque on Saturday, while Jewish worshipers began gathering at the site under armed escort at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, according to the director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani.

Witnesses told Ma’an that they saw Israeli settlers performing Jewish rituals inside the compound, in violation of longstanding agreements regarding non-Muslim worship at the site.

Meanwhile, Israeli police stationed outside the compound’s gates imposed restrictions on the entry of Muslim worshipers.

Some Muslim worshipers, locals said, were denied entry, and others were asked to leave their identity documents with Israeli soldiers before they were allowed to go in.

Israeli forces carried out large-scale detention raids across Jerusalem’s Old City overnight Thursday in anticipation of start of Tisha B'av, detaining and assaulting 15 Palestinian youths, and later releasing them after handing them a 15-day ban from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Extremist settlers had already stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound leading up to the day of fasting, and continuously carried out massive tours in the compound throughout the day on Sunday.

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