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Jordan rejects reported Israeli court ruling in favor of Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa

March 2, 2017 1:04 P.M. (Updated: March 2, 2017 6:49 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Jordanian government rejected on Thursday a recent Israeli magistrate court decision reportedly ruling that Jews should be permitted to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound -- known to Jews as the Temple Mount -- according to a Jordanian government source.

On Tuesday, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that an Israeli magistrate court in Jerusalem had ruled that Jews were permitted to pray at Al-Aqsa owing to the site’s importance to the religion.

However, Israel’s Ministry of Justice was not immediately able to provide more information on the ruling or to comment on what the larger effect such a ruling would have on the longstanding status quo at Al-Aqsa, which prohibits Jewish worship.

The Al-Aqsa compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The third holiest site in Islam, it 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 compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. Despite this agreement, Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site and carry out religious worship -- often under armed guard.

The compound is now administered by the Islamic Endowment, or Waqf, whose employees often face detention by Israeli forces while attempting to protect the site from provocative Israeli right-wing incursions onto the site and renovations in the compound attempted by Israel Antiquity Authorities (IAA).

Jordan confirmed its rejection of Israeli violations at Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem, adding that the court decision was in direct violation of recent UN decisions, referring to a UNESCO resolution passed last year which sharply criticized Israeli policies at the holy site.

The government source added that the Israeli court decision would “obstruct the peace process,” and added that Jordan considered the move “an aggression against the historical rights of Muslim and Christians in Jerusalem.”

Jordan also delivered a letter rejecting the court decision to the Israeli embassy in Amman on Wednesday, the source said, and demanded a halt to Israeli construction work being carried out in the Umayyad palaces near the southern wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The letter highlighted the Jordanian government’s position that the renovations, which includes constructing wooden and cement paths in the eastern part of the Umayyad palaces and erecting a sign declaring the area a site for Jews, was an “aggression against land that fall under the jurisdiction of the Waqf administration in Jerusalem,” and noted that the Israeli actions were “an attempt to change the history of the area.”

The Jordanian government added that the policies would “worsen the relations between Israel and Jordan,” while destroying “all efforts to maintain calm and retain the historical status of Jerusalem.”

The source concluded that Jordan has demanded that Israel cease all aggression in Jerusalem and to remove changes made to the Umayyad palaces “immediately.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Wafa reported that Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs Yousif Ideis warned that the Israeli court’s decision would “lead to a religious war that can bring devastation to the entire region,” adding that Israel was taking dangerous steps in its legislation which violates the “sanctity of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” while rejecting all international resolutions that have emphasized the importance of the site to Muslims.

Many Palestinians and rights groups fear that right-wing groups calling for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to make way for a third Jewish temple are gaining traction in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
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