Israel caves in to protests and pressure on Al-Aqsa

King asserts Palestinians’ right to pray in the holy mosque

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Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman

Saudi Gazette report

PROTESTS and pressure from world leaders, led by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, forced Israel to remove all security measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The move felicitates the return of Palestinian worshipers to the mosque, in what may be a turning point in the two-week standoff.

Israel installed metal detectors, cameras and railings outside the mosque after two of its police officers were shot dead on July 14 but the move sparked a massive backlash of civil protests and some violence from Palestinians.

Thousands of Palestinians have prayed each day outside the mosque, rather than going inside through the new security set up.

On Thursday morning the Israeli government removed the last of the railings and the Waqf, the Islamic authority that administers the mosque, gave the all clear for worshipers to return to the holy site.

“The technical report showed that all obstacles the occupation (Israel) put outside Al-Aqsa mosque were removed,” said Abdel-Azeem Salhab, the head of the Waqf.

King Salman had a telephonic conversation with several world leaders in order to resolve the Al-Aqsa Mosque impasse after Israel’s security measures last week.

During the calls, King Salman asserted the rights of Palestinian Muslims to access Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to a Royal Court statement issued on Thursday, King Salman’s communications with world leaders succeeded in resolving the Al-Aqsa confrontations.

The Saudi government contacted the US administration and urged it to facilitate the opening of Al-Aqsa Mosque to Muslims, and for allowing them the right to worship after restrictions on access to the mosque were imposed by Israeli forces, the Royal Court statement said.

The statement added that King Salman’s efforts have been successful in a way that contributed to restoring stability and provided reassurance to the worshipers. It helped safeguard their dignity and security.

King Salman stressed the need to restore stability and calm to the holy mosque and the surrounding areas. The statement stressed Saudi Arabia’s emphasis on the importance of achieving a just and comprehensive peace for the Palestinian cause, in accordance with the Arab peace initiative and the vision of a two-state solution.

On Thursday, Israeli police removed all security installations it had put in place this month at the Muslim entrances of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem’s Old City.

Palestinian factions had called for a “Day of Rage” against Israeli forces on Friday in protest at the situation at the mosque and it was not clear if they would call off their protests in light of Israel’s decision to remove the barriers.

Three Palestinians were killed last Friday in clashes with Israeli troops and three Israelis were later stabbed to death in their home in a West Bank settlement by a young Palestinian.Palestinian political factions issued statements supporting the Waqf announcement, which may help quell the unrest. Before the announcement, factions had been calling for a “day of rage” on Friday, which would probably have fueled the violence.

Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and has been custodian of holy sites in occupied Jerusalem since 1924, said Israel’s removal of the security measures were an “essential step to calm the situation”.

Palestinian political factions were quick to highlight what they saw as a victory over Israel, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarded as having backed down. A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to comment on the decision, but the right-wing criticized him.

“Israel is emerging weakened from this crisis, to my regret,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett, whose right-wing faction is in Netanyahu’s coalition and is a potential challenger for the leadership.

“The truth must be stated. Instead of bolstering our sovereignty in Jerusalem, a message was relayed that our sovereignty can be shaken,” he said.

Netanyahu had insisted that the extra security was needed to ensure safety at the site, which is also popular with tourists. But by taking the steps to bolster security, Israel was materially changing the sensitive status quo, which has governed movement and religious practice for decades.

— With input from Agencies


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