Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Sunday said the government has been closely following up on Israeli forces’ storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque, noting that Jordan strongly denounces these acts.
The premier made the statement at the Lower House in reply to questions by MPs on Jordan's position regarding recent Israeli violations of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, pointing out that the Awqaf Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Jordanian media have been pre-occupied with the issue.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Sunday voiced Jordan's strong condemnation and rejection of the Israeli forces attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque.
He asserted that Jordan, under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah, considers Al-Aqsa Mosque a red line, stressing that the Kingdom will firmly confront any act of aggression that may harm the Islamic and the Christian sites, in accordance with the Hashemite Custodianship over the holy sites in Jerusalem.
In his address at the 144th ministerial session of the Arab League Council meeting in Cairo, Judeh said Jordan will not spare any efforts to stop the Israeli violations, through direct and indirect contacts with influential international players, especially the UN.
Through its membership of the Security Council, Jordan will voice rejection of such violations, especially against any intended measures to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque in terms of prayer times or space, which he said “are totally rejected”.
Earlier in the day, the government issued a statement condemning the Israeli army raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, warning Israel, as the occupation force, to stop its continuous attempts to alter the status quo in the holy city, in violation of international and humanitarian laws, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammad Momani demanded the Israeli government stop its provocative acts and raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al Haram Al Sharif compound, and to cease its attacks on holy sites.
Momani, who is also government spokesperson, stressed that Jordan will continue efforts confronting all Israeli attempts and measures against Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem, and said the Kingdom will carry on with its mission to safeguard holy shrines in Jerusalem.
He also highlighted the importance of committing to the outcomes of the trilateral meeting between His Majesty King Abdullah, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2014 regarding maintaining the status quo of holy sites in East Jerusalem and respecting the Hashemite Custodianship over these sites.
The minister described the continuous attacks by Israeli occupation forces on Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al Haram Al Sharif as the “spark” that would escalate the conflict and fuel extremism, as hopes dim for any political settlement, Petra added.
On November 4, 2014, Jordan recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv, Walid Obeidat, for consultations following an Israeli raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque, the main component of the shrine, which is the third holiest place for Muslims.
The Kingdom on February 2 decided to send Obeidat back to his post almost three months after he was called for consultations in protest of Israeli practices at Al Haram Al Sharif in Jerusalem.
Also on Sunday, the newly licensed Muslim Brotherhood society warned against the occupation forces’ acts on Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al Haram Al Sharif, adding that Israel does not care about the holy sites or their sanctity, Petra reported.
In Jerusalem, Palestinians and Israeli forces clashed at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound Sunday, hours before the start of the Jewish New Year, Agence France-Presse reported.
The clashes came with tensions running high after Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon last week outlawed two Muslim groups that confront Jewish visitors to the compound.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called an Israeli forces “attack” at the site, while Netanyahu said authorities must prevent rioting there.
Witnesses said Israeli forces entered the mosque and caused damage. Israeli forces said only they closed its doors to lock in rioters throwing stones, fireworks and other objects.
A statement from Israeli forces said the rioters barricaded themselves in the mosque overnight with the aim of disrupting visits by Jews to the site ahead of the start of New Year celebrations on Sunday evening.
It said Israeli forces raided the compound at around 6:45am (0345 GMT) to ensure visits could go ahead as usual. Protesters then targeted Israeli forces from inside the mosque.
“Masked protesters who were inside the mosque threw stones and fireworks at police,” it said. “Suspect pipes that could be filled with homemade explosives were also found at the entry to the mosque.”
Protesters have previously used such pipes to direct the trajectory of fireworks.
A witness accused Israeli forces of entering the mosque much further than would have been needed to close the doors and of causing damage, saying prayer mats were partly burned. Witnesses also said a number of windows were broken.
Al Aqsa ‘red line’
Israeli forces cleared people from the site, including members of the Waqf, the Jordanian organisation that administers it, a Waqf spokesman said.
Far-right Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel was among Jewish activists who later visited the site, media reported.
“It’s the first time that they evacuated all the guards,” Waqf Spokesman Firas Al-Dibs told AFP, adding that two had been wounded by rubber bullets. “The director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Omar Kaswani, was injured and arrested.”
Israeli forces, who denied using rubber bullets, said calm later returned to the complex, though clashes continued outside in the alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City, with authorities firing tear gas and stun grenades.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 20 people needed hospital treatment.
An AFP journalist saw several people being detained and heavy security deployment in the Old City. News photographers, including one from AFP, were kicked and hit by Israeli forces seeking to push back crowds.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said sites such as Al-Aqsa constituted a “red line”, adding that “we will not allow attacks against our holy places”.
“The presidency strongly condemns the attack by the occupier’s military and police against Al-Aqsa Mosque and the aggression against the faithful who were there,” a statement from his office said.
A Netanyahu statement said Israel would act “to maintain the status quo and order” at the compound, venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount.
“It is our responsibility and our power to act against rioters to allow freedom of worship at this holy place,” he said.
UN urges restraint
United Nations Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov urged restraint on both sides.
“I urge all to do their part in ensuring that visitors and worshippers demonstrate restraint and respect for the sanctity of the area,” he said in a statement.
“I take note of the statement by the prime minister of Israel that the status quo at the holy sites will be maintained.”
Egypt, the only other Arab country to have a peace treaty with Israel, also condemned its actions at the compound.