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Jordanian official demands Netanyahu reinstate Al-Aqsa ban on Knesset members

Aug. 29, 2017 9:46 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 30, 2017 11:31 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A Jordanian government official condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to lift a ban on Israeli Knesset members from visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday, calling the move “irresponsible.”

Muhammad Momani, the state minister for media affairs and the government spokesperson, said that the move was “irresponsible” and would increase tensions at the holy site, which falls under Jordanian custodianship, Jordanian news agency Petra reported.

Netanyahu had placed the ban on Knesset members visiting the site almost two years ago in order to ease tensions amid a deadly wave of political unrest that had erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.

Netanyahu’s lifting of the ban is being considered a test trial, for Israeli forces to assess whether to permanently allow lawmakers to visit the compound.

Momani demanded that Israel stop encouraging Jewish extremists to enter Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest site, and to reinstate the ban on Israeli Knesset members from entering the holy site.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound's director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani reacted to Netanyahu's decision to lift the ban earlier on Thursday, saying that the Israeli prime minister "is trying to show that he controls Al-Aqsa Mosque."

However, imposing facts on the ground "through the barrel of a gun and through occupation does not give them the right to control Al-Aqsa," he said.

Firas al-Dibs, the spokesperson for the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) that administers the holy site, also said that the decision was "unacceptable," and showed that "extremist right-wing entities are in control of the Israeli occupation's government."

While non-Muslim visitation to the compound is permitted at certain times, non-Muslim prayer is strictly prohibited at the site in accordance with a longstanding agreement between Jordan and Israel.

However, right-wing Israelis often enter the holy site and carry out religious worship in an attempt to challenge this status quo.

Led by right-wing Israeli politicians, most notably Yehuda Glick, Israelis have attempted to protest the prohibition of Jewish worship at the site, which is also the holiest site for Jews, as it sits where they believe the First and Second Temples had once stood.

Many Palestinians and rights groups fear that right-wing groups calling for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to make way for a third Jewish temple are gaining growing influence in Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
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