Ramallah, Occupied West Bank – Iyad Ameen Madani, head of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has visited occupied East Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque in the compound referred to as Haram al-Sharif by Muslims and Temple Mount by Jews.
Madani’s visit on Monday, his first to the compound since assuming the role of OIC secretary-general earlier in January, was aimed at bilateral cooperation between the group and the State of Palestine, an OIC press statement stated.
The statement further said that it aimed to aid Palestinian efforts “to regain their freedom and dignity, and to establish their independent state” with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In recent months, East Jerusalem and the Haram al-Sharif compound have been the source of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Hard-line Israeli Jewish groups have campaigned for the right to pray in the courtyards that sit next to the mosque.
Their efforts have angered Palestinians, who view the move as a further expansion of Israeli control over the capital of their presumptive state and infringement on a symbol of national identity.
The tensions have resulted in attacks on both sides, including an assault on a Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinians in November that left five Israelis dead and eight wounded.
The Israeli authorities have also since revoked the residency status and demolished the homes of the families of Palestinian attackers.
Madani’s visit to al-Aqsa Mosque, reportedly coordinated with the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who was unavailable for comment, could have set off tensions in Jerusalem, which has been relatively calm over the past month.
Micky Rosenfeld, spokesperson for the Israeli police force that provides security to holy sites in the Israeli-occupied territory, told Al Jazeera he was unaware of Madani’s visit.
Ofir Gendelman, spokesperson of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, had no comment either.
An official from the Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera that he was unaware of any difficulties involving Madani’s visit to the mosque.
Over the last month, the Palestinian Authority (PA) took to diplomatic means to secure recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and an end to the nearly five decade long Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The PA worked with France and Arab states on a draft resolution that would accomplish these goals.
However, the resolution was submitted to the UN Security Council on December 29.
It failed to win the minimum nine votes for the Security Council to adopt its measures.
Madani released a statement following the Security Council’s decision expressing his “deep disappointment” at the resolution’s failure.
He went on to say that he was “astounded” at the countries that abstained or voted against the resolution.
The PA has since applied for membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where Israel could be tried for military operations in the besieged Gaza Strip.
In response, Israel is withholding $127m in tax revenues from the PA.
Should the PA attempt to bring charges against the Israelis in the ICC, the US, Israel’s closest ally, would cut approximately $400m in funds for the heavily aid-dependent Palestinian leadership.