Israel has told Jordan it has no plans to change the status quo at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound by allowing Jews to pray there, against a backdrop of continued unrest in occupied East Jerusalem.
Benjamin Netanyahu called Jordan’s King Abdullah on Thursday to reassure his commitment to protecting Jerusalem’s holy site, the Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Netanyahu has faced criticism both domestically and from the international community due to what critics see as Israel’s aggressive and uncompromising stance on the mosque issue.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is Islam’s third holiest site and is also revered by Jews because it once housed both the First and Second Temple.
In the phone conversation, Abdullah reportedly stressed Jordan’s rejection of “any measures harming the Al-Aqsa Mosque and its sanctity”, according to a statement issued by the palace.
Abdullah, the head of one of only two Arab countries at peace with of Israel, recalled the Jordanian ambassador on Wednesday in protest against what it called “unacceptable” Israeli police assault on the sacred mosque.
The decision came after clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers provoked by Jewish settlers’ storming of al-Aqsa Mosque protected by more than 300 Israeli security forces.
A Palestinian reportedly angered by the confrontation later drove a minivan into a crowd waiting for a train, killing one person and wounding 13 others.
Just hours later, a Palestinian motorist drove into a group of soldiers in the West Bank, injuring three of them. The motorist turned himself in to Israeli security forces on Thursday, the army said.
“There is still a lot of tension and a huge police presence here,” Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Jerusalem, said on Thursday.
About 150 Jewish worshippers marched in the city in protest against deteriorating security and pray near al-Aqsa Mosque compound, but were prevented by police from reaching the shrine.
The mainly young crowd had gathered near the Old City for what they called a march “to the gates of the Temple Mount”, Israel’s name for the compound.
Since Israel captured East Jerusalem and the Old City in 1967, Jewish worshippers have been allowed to visit – but not pray – at the site.
The area is run by Muslim authorities under the custody of Jordan.
Azzam Khabib, director of the Waqf, the Muslim religious authority in charge of al-Aqsa site, said Muslim leaders had urged Israel not to allow non-Muslims into the site because of the tense situation.
Instead, he said about 300 Israeli police entered the area early in the morning.
“What happened was unprecedented,” he said. He said Israeli police “went deep inside wearing their shoes and almost reached the altar inside”.
Khabib said that in the past 15 years or so, the number of Jews visiting the area each day has expanded from three or four to more than 50.
Israel, meanwhile, frequently restricts Muslim access to the mosque as a security measure.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, said Wednesday’s “actions blatantly intended to assert Israeli control over the compound continue unabated”.
He said in a letter to the Security Council that stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets were fired at Palestinian worshippers in al-Aqsa Mosque, seriously injuring at least 30 people.
Dina Kawar, Jordan’s UN ambassador, said in a separate letter to the council that Israeli special forces and police prohibited Muslim worshippers from entering and allowed religious and political extremists inside the
“This blatant and unlawful use of force against one of the holiest sites on earth for Muslims have resulted in fires breaking out, damage to mosaic works on ceilings and to the structure of the building, burning of the carpets and rugs and damage to other facilities,” she said.
For his part, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, sent what his office called a “sarcastic letter” to the Security Council, listing acts of alleged incitement by the Palestinian leadership.
Last month, a Palestinian rammed his vehicle into a crowded train stop in East Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old Israeli-American girl and a 22-year-old Ecuadorean woman.
A few days later, Israeli police shot and killed the suspected assailant behind a separate drive-by attack on Yehuda Glick, a rabbi and activist who has pushed for greater Jewish access to al-Aqsa compound. Glick remains hospitalised.
Jerusalem has been seething for months, since the July murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a teenager from Shuafat who was burned alive in a revenge attack for the killing of three Jewish Israelis in the occupied West Bank.
His killers were arrested several days later. Al Jazeera