Jordan condemns visit of 'extremist' Jews to holy site
Jordan on Monday condemned Israel for allowing "extremist" Jews to visit Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, 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, who consider the compound their holiest site and call it the Temple Mount, are allowed to visit but not to pray on the esplanade in order to avoid tensions with Muslims who worship there.
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.
Annexing the Old City of Jerusalem
The Mamilla district on the outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem offers an excellent example of how the Zionist dream of a united Jerusalem is being attained through urban planning decisions, which aim to achieve the European ideal of a ″beautiful city″. By Felix Koltermann
Tsahal Square is where Jaffa Street, previously West Jerusalem′s main thoroughfare and today a traffic-calmed shopping promenade, meets the walls of the Old City and East Jerusalem. This is also the route of the controversial tram, inaugurated in 2001, which provides attractive urban flair
The main north-south traffic axis runs through a tunnel under Tsahal Square, thereby allowing pedestrians to conveniently walk to the Old City from West Jerusalem. From here, it's but a short stroll along the wall to the Jaffa Gate
The walls of the Old City of Jerusalem are bordered by a green park area belonging to a national park, a great deal of which is located in no man's land
Another way to reach the Old City from West Jerusalem is via the Alrov Mamilla shopping mall, which opened in 2007 and straddles the no man's land between East and West Jerusalem
Until 1948, the site of today's shopping mall was a bustling business district. Some old buildings were torn down during the construction of the mall, but were rebuilt stone for stone, as the numbered building materials bear witness
The shopping mall is a kind of open-air promenade and hosts both national and international fashion chains. The shopping street acts as a bridge to the Old City
Exiting the Mamilla Mall, these stairs lead directly to the Jaffa Gate, which can be seen in the background and thereby to the Old City of Jerusalem. Israel police are often positioned here to conduct checks on Palestinians
Looking out over the walls of the Old City towards the West, one sees the historic King David Hotel on the other side of the Hinnom Valley. The domes in the foreground belong to the David's Village apartment complex
The David's Village apartment complex is a so-called gated community. The whole area is under video surveillance and there are guardhouses at the entrances. These features are meant to attract a wealthy clientele
Many apartments in David's Village stand empty the whole year long, because most of the wealthy apartment owners come from the USA and Europe and only vacation in Jerusalem
A billboard advertises the new Legacy apartment complex built next to David's Village by stressing references to history. In the process the developers hope to meet the expectations of affluent property investors from abroad
The Teddy Kollek Park, named in honour of a former Jerusalem mayor, is located in the Hinnom Valley. In the background, one can see the walls of the Old City with the Tower of David, which plays a key role in promoting the mythology of Jerusalem
Excavations in the lower part of the Hinnom Valley have brought to light the remains of Roman buildings. The information panel shows how archaeology and current political interests have become intertwined
"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 lightly 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 on 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. (AFP)
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