Israel’s state prosecutor and top prosecution officials made an unusual visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Monday morning, accompanied by police and senior army officers.
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan’s visit was coordinated in advance with the Waqf, the Islamic custodian of the Temple Mount, despite the fact that Jews are barred from entering buildings there.
As part of the work-related tour, they visited the Marwan Mosque (or Solomon’s Stables in Hebrew) and the Dome of the Rock, as well as Christian and Jewish sites in the Jerusalem’s Old City.
Although Palestinians on social media decried the visit as an “invasion,” Monday morning’s tour passed without incident.
The Temple Mount, known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to Muslims, is the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam. After Israel took East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War, it handed control of the site to the Waqf, the Islamic religious trust, which is administered by Jordan.
In 2000, the Waqf closed the Temple Mount to non-Muslims after riots erupted following former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the holy site. In 2003, Israel re-opened it to visitors, but the Waqf still forbids non-Muslims from the compound’s buildings, though Israeli police still frequently enter them.
Last month, four policemen and dozens of Palestinians were injured in clashes on the Temple Mount, which broke out after it was announced that Jewish worshippers would be allowed to visit the site during the Tisha B’Av holiday, which mourns the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The fast day coincided this year with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Police had initially said that they would not allow Jews to visit the site, but after the skirmishes subsided, they permitted a few hundred Jews onto the mount. During that visit, police blocked off entry to the compound to Muslims, and confrontations between police and Palestinian youth took place at some of the compound’s gates.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry condemned the decision to let in Jewish worshippers, saying that it “taunted [Muslim] worshippers during the first day of Eid al-Adha,” and called on the international community to pressure Israel to cease its violations of the Temple Mount status quo. “We denounce each and every Israeli violation of Al-Aqsa,” Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi wrote on Twitter, adding “The absurd attempts of the occupation authority will not change the status quo.”