Jordan says Israel’s Al-Aqsa mosque restrictions risk ‘explosion’

By Thomson Reuters Mar 11, 2024 | 10:03 AM

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday restrictions imposed by Israel on Muslim worshippers’ access to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the Muslim fasting month was pushing the situation towards an “explosion”.

In remarks on state media, Safadi said his country, which overviews the holy site, rejected Israel’s announced move to limit access during Ramadan, citing security needs with war raging in Gaza.

“We warn that desecrating the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque is playing with fire,” Safadi said in a joint news conference with the Vatican’s foreign minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

The compound, the third holiest shrine in Islam, is also the site of the most sacred place for Jews who know it as Temple Mount. It has been a longstanding flashpoint for trouble.

Jordan echoes the Palestinian view that such restrictions on Muslim worshippers, already facing war and hunger in Gaza, were an attack on freedom of worship.

After hard-right Israeli Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said recently he wanted tougher restrictions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the numbers admitted would be similar to last year.

“Not allowing worshippers to perform their religious duties and their rituals in this holy month and restricting freedom to enter the Aqsa mosque, all that pushes torwards an explosive situation which is what we are warning about,” Safadi added.

Israel was also risking wider violence in the Israeli occupied West Bank by what Safadi said were unilateral Israeli measures to change the status quo citing accelerated Jewish settlement building on Arab land and what he termed as stepped up “terror attacks by armed settlers on Palestinian villagers.

“The West Bank is boiling,” Safadi added.

The Israeli-occupied West Bank has since the Gaza war seen a surge of confrontations, with around 400 Palestinians killed in clashes with security forces or Jewish settlers.

Most world powers view as illegal settlements Israel has built on land it captured in a 1967 war with Arab powers.

The holy month of Ramadan came at a time when Palestinians in the enclave were dying of hunger with Israel using food as a weapon of war, Safadi said.

“Ramadan comes with Gaza bombed by Israel and women unable to find food for their children and five months that have passed with the world failing to preserve human digintiy,” Safadi said.

Israel’s relentless campaign in Gaza has caused increasing alarm across the world as the growing risk of famine threatens to add to a death toll that has already passed 31,000.

Israel denies it is responsible for the wider hunger or waging war on civilians.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Alex Richardson)