Ramallah – International contacts intensified on Thursday with the aim to reach a compromise over the removal of electronic gates at Al Aqsa Mosque and to reopen the compound to Palestinian worshippers.
A Palestinian official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, said that the United States, the European Union, Turkey and Arab countries have all joined mediation efforts and gave advice to Israel on the means to resolve the issue.
However, the official added that direct and intensive negotiations were held between Tel Aviv and Amman, as Israel manages the outer area of the mosque, while Jordan oversees the compound’s inner space.
He noted that Jordan was committed to the need to remove the electronic gates entirely, rejecting all solutions such as keeping the gates and excluding specific groups of worshipers from inspection.
On Sunday, Israeli police placed strict security measures at the entrances of the mosque, including e-gates and metal detectors to search worshipers, in response to an attack last week, which saw three Arab Israelis open fire at Israeli police officers near the compound.
The new measures sparked a wave of anger among Palestinians, who refused to be inspected by the police and decided to pray outside the mosque instead.
On Monday, Jerusalem witnessed violent confrontations that have left several Palestinians injured. Religious authorities, Islamic and Christian figures, as well as politicians and activists, have urged the residents of Jerusalem to march to Al Aqsa on Friday, in protest of the new security measures.
In remarks on Thursday, Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan defended the establishment of electronic gates, but acknowledged the existence of intensive contacts to ease the dispute, stressing his commitment to reach an appropriate “compromise”.
The Israeli Army has decided to place five additional military battalions on alert, among fears that Friday’s march would stir violence in the city.
In this context, Director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani said: “If the occupation forces are afraid for their safety, let them leave. Al-Aqsa belongs to the Muslims alone by a divine decree issued 1400 years ago.”
Al-Kiswani warned the occupation forces against sparking violence on Friday, which he said might lead to the massacre of worshipers.
On Thursday, a delegation of the World Council of Churches joined Palestinian worshipers who gathered near Al Aqsa to voice their solidarity with the Muslim community. Zogby al-Zoghbi, the council’s spokesman, denounced the establishment of e-gates and described it as a religious war.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) sent letters to the United States, European, Arab and Islamic countries, calling for their urgent intervention.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and asked him to pressure the United States and Israel to end the tension.
Erdogan, for his part, contacted Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, urging him to resolve the crisis.
However, Israeli media quoted sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying: “Erdogan passed the prime minister and foreign minister Netanyahu and chose to talk to the president, who has no real authority in this case.”
Also on Thursday, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah called on the European Union to take immediate and urgent steps to pressure Israel to stop its violations against the Palestinians and their holy sites.
Hamdallah warned against the deterioration of the security situation due to the Israeli measures in Jerusalem, especially the ongoing violations against Jerusalemites.
During his meeting with ambassadors and representatives of EU countries, he said that the PA would face all attempts to isolate Al Aqsa.