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Israeli forces stop Jordan envoy from entering Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli occupation forces blocked on Tuesday the Jordanian envoy to ‘Israel’ from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

According to witnesses, the Jordanian ambassador Ghassan Majali was stopped by Israeli police at the Lion’s Gate (Bab al-Asbat), at the northern side of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and prevented from entering, claiming that he required authorization to enter the site and eventually asking him to leave.

The Israeli police, for its part, claimed that Majali arrived at the holy site “without any prior coordination with police officials”, prompting an Israeli officer at the site entrance who did not recognize the diplomat to notify his commander about the unexpected visit.

While awaiting instructions, officers held up Majali, along with Azzam al-Khatib, the director of the Jerusalem Waqf. The ambassador refused to wait and decided to leave, Israeli police added.

“Had the ambassador briefly waited a few more minutes for the officer to be updated, the group would have entered,” the police said, stressing that “coordination” with Israeli police was routine before such visits.

Video footage taken from the incident also shows Majali, among other Muslim worshipers, at the limestone Lion’s Gate entrance. An Israeli police officer blocks his path and yells at Majali in Arabic to go back, according to the video. Al-Khatib gets on the phone as the visitors argue with the officers amid the crackle of the policeman’s walkie-talkie.

 

The Jordanian foreign ministry said it summoned Israel’s ambassador in Amman Eitan Surkis for talks over the incident on Tuesday.

“We have delivered a strong letter of protest to the ambassador to relay to his government,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The Jordanian government condemns any measures aimed at interfering in the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” it added.

Jordanian MP Khalil Attiyah called the “blocking” of Majali from entering Al-Aqsa a “provocation”.

“This is a provocative aggression and a direct assault on the custodianship of Jordan, it’s a dangerous precedent,” he said.

About two hours later, Jordanian state-run media reported that Majali finally entered the holy site without showing any kind of permission and held talks with al-Khatib, who “briefed him about the Israeli violations in Al-Aqsa”.

Later, ‘Israel’ stressed that there was no change to the ongoing policy. “There is no change in Israel’s policy regarding the Temple Mount. Israel is committed to keeping the status quo on the Temple Mount and the freedom of worship in Jerusalem. The Israeli Police is responsible for law and order on the Temple Mount,” the statement read.

Members of the Netanyahu-led far-right government have advocated for sweeping changes to the status quo of the holy site since coming to power, causing diplomatic tensions.

Last month, Jordanian King Abdullah II was asked if he felt Israel’s new government threatened the status quo in Jerusalem and the Hashemite custodianship, and he said “If people want to get into a conflict with us, we are quite prepared.”

“We have set red lines and if people want to push those red lines, then we will deal with that.”

The affairs of the mosque are meant to be the sole responsibility of the Waqf, a joint Jordanian-Palestinian Islamic trust, as part of a decades-old understanding between ‘Israel’ and Jordan – the custodian of Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem.

Under the agreement, commonly referred to as the status quo, Muslims should be allowed to enter the mosque without restrictions while non-Muslims can visit after approval from the Waqf.

Israeli occupation authorities have repeatedly violated provisions of the agreement and facilitated visits by settlers and ultranationalists without the Waqf’s approval.

Last week, Israeli occupation forces also blocked the UK’s Middle East minister Lord Tariq Ahmad from visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque for 30 minutes before allowing him to enter.

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