Saudi Arabia revealed on Thursday that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz had been in contact world powers, including the United States, to try to prevent Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City from being closed to Muslims and to defuse political and religious tensions.
Israel overnight removed all security infrastructure it had put in place this month at Muslim entrances to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, has held contacts with many world leaders over the past few days,” the announcement from the Saudi royal court, published by state news agency SPA, said.
Muslim elders urged worshippers to return to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday after Israel backed down in the face of 10 days of often-violent protests and removed all security measures it had installed at the site.
Israel put up metal detectors, cameras and steel barriers at Muslim entrances to the compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, after the July 14 killing of two Israeli policemen by Arab gunmen who had concealed weapons there.
The extra security provoked days of unrest, with violent clashes on the streets of East Jerusalem. Israeli forces shot and killed four Palestinians in the fighting, and a Palestinian man stabbed and killed three Israelis in their home.
Most Muslims have refused to enter the compound for the past two weeks, instead praying in the streets around the Old City.
King Salman contacted the US government and called for an end to restrictions on entry to the mosque, the statement said, saying that developments showed this push had been successful.
The king “stressed the need for the return of calm,” and called for respect for the sanctity of the compound, it said.