Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis over the al-Aqsa Mosque compound has prompted the international community to call for calm and a restoration of the status quo, which gives Muslims religious control over the compound and Jews the right to visit, but not pray there.
Palestinian worshippers had refused to pray inside al-Aqsa Mosque since Israel installed new security measures following an attack on July 14, when three Palestinian citizens of Israel shot dead two Israeli security guards before they were chased inside the compound and gunned down.
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Israel then cancelled Friday prayers and shut down the compound for the first time since 1969, prompting outrage among Palestinians.
Thousands usually gather at the mosque for Friday prayers.
The compound was reopened two days later after metal detectors were installed at the entrances, which Palestinians viewed an encroachment of Israeli control over the holy site.
In protest, Palestinian worshippers have been conducting prayers outside by the gates.
Israeli security forces clamped down on daily demonstrations this week, resulting in dozens of injuries.
The site houses al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina, but also the ruins of the Biblical Jewish Temple.
World officials have expressed their concern and called on Israel and Jordan, the custodian of the compound, to reach an agreement in a bid to defuse the tensions.
“Any restriction on Muslims entering al-Aqsa Mosque is unacceptable,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “The protection of the Islamic character and sanctity of al-Quds [Jerusalem] and al-Haram al-Sharif [Al-Aqsa Mosque compound] is important for the whole Muslim world.”
“It is unacceptable for the entry of Muslims and Palestinians to the mosque to be blocked,” said presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kahn. “We interpret the move as a shift in the status quo at the al-Aqsa Mosque.”
In a statement released by his media office, Lebanese President Michel Aoun “condemned and denounced the recurrent Israeli aggressions against the sanctity of al-Aqsa Mosque and the closure of the doors of the mosque against the worshippers”.
“The recurrent Israeli aggressions…are part of an Israeli scheme to target the sacred sites after the usurpation of the land, in its attempt to continue changing the geographic and demographic status quo in Jerusalem,” the statement read.
The United States
In a statement released on Wednesday, the White House said it is “very concerned” about the tensions surrounding the compound.
“[The] US calls upon the state of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to make a good faith effort to reduce tensions and to find a solution that assures public safety and the security of the site and maintains the status quo,” the statement said.
Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi told the European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini that Jordan is exerting its utmost to restore calm and end the crisis, based on principles of security, stability and Israel’s respect of the historical situation in Jerusalem.
He also underscored the importance of the international community to de-escalate the situation and prevent further tensions, by cancelling all Israeli actions that aim to impose new facts on the ground.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the Foreign Ministry urged Israel to stop the violence and warned of escalating tensions at the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The statement called on Israel to “stop violence against Palestinians and holy places, and to respect Palestinians’ freedom of worship, and not taking more measures that may trigger conflict and decrease the chances of reaching a comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution”.
The Saudi Council of Ministers called on the international community to bear the responsibility to halt these practices that “deeply hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the globe.”
The weekly session, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman, described the Israeli act as a dangerous development that would further complicate the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
South African Muslim leaders and civil rights groups have condemned Israel’s restricting access to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.
“We have appealed to Imams across the country to concentrate their sermons this Friday on what is happening in Al-Aqsa and rally solidarity for fellow Muslims there,” Shakir Baker, operations manager of the Al-Quds Foundation, told Anadolu Agency.
“We have called on Muslims worldwide to fast every Thursday until al-Aqsa is liberated.”
International Union of Muslim Scholars
The Doha-based International Union of Muslim scholars called for all Muslims to show solidarity with worshippers at al-Aqsa in a “day of anger”.
“We call on all Muslims to make this Friday a day of anger against the Zionist actions in Jerusalem and the people residing there,” a statement by the group read.
The European Union
“We call on the state of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to work together and make all efforts to find solutions that ensure security for all, respect the sanctity of this holy site, and preserve the status quo,” said Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU High Representative Federica Mogherini.
“We also call on all political and religious leaders to act responsibly and work towards restoring calm. We will continue to closely monitor the developments.”