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Dozens injured after new confrontation on mosque esplanade

Jordan seeks diplomatic rapprochement with Israel in a bid to "ease tensions"
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AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI  -   File photo, Israeli police carry a young injured Palestinian protester at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on April 22, 2022.

The esplanade of the mosques in Jerusalem continues to be the scene and witness of clashes between Muslims and the Israeli authorities. In a new day of violence, at least 57 people were injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Confrontations between the two have been ongoing since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. However, these latest riots coincide with the celebration of the last Friday of the Muslim holy month. According to Israeli police, forces reportedly entered the facility after "rioters" threw stones at the authorities, including at Jewish holy sites such as the Wailing Wall, located beneath the Al-Aqsa building. 

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AP/ODED BALILTY - Palestinian women wait to cross the Qalandia checkpoint on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the fourth Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, Friday, April 29, 2022.

According to a statement issued by the Israeli authorities, the rioters are said to have used "riot dispersal means". However, according to AFP reporters and witnesses, Israeli police reportedly fired "tear gas and rubber bullets" at the population.

The police also reported that three people had been arrested, two of them for throwing stones and another for "inciting the mob". They also said that "for the last hour, the site has been quiet and worshippers are reportedly entering the compound safely".

Still, tensions remain high. Organisations report that at least 300 Palestinians have been injured in the last two weeks in the Al-Aqsa compound alone. Confrontations and violence between Muslims and Jews have been going on since the beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they are particularly "worrying" at the global level. In this regard, international condemnation has not only come from Arab countries, as organisations such as the UN and countries such as the United States have condemned these practices.

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AP/ODED BALILTY - Israeli security forces check the identity of Palestinian women at the Qalandia checkpoint on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, has condemned "the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel over the past month". 

In an attempt of détente, Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that the Israeli government was "committed" to the status quo of the esplanade of the mosques, safeguarded by Jordan, which would mean accepting that the only people allowed access to the compound are Muslims.

However, the Jordanian government has reportedly violated the Jordanian decree in a number of ways. In this regard, Jews are said to have gradually come to pray in this holy place. What the esplanade of the mosques is for Muslims, for Jews it is the Temple Mount, the place where the world was created and where the Messiah would appear, which is why they claim its sacred symbolism. 

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REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN - A soldier patrols as Palestinians head to the last Friday Ramadan prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, at the Qalandia checkpoint, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, 29 April 2022.

Despite this sacredness for the Jewish religion, it is Jordan that ensures that the esplanade remains exclusively Muslim in character. Followers of Mohammed are allowed to pray there, while Jews may only enter as visitors.

Jordan, mediator to ensure the status quo 

These recent clashes have resulted in Jordan stepping up its efforts to ensure that this historical status quo is maintained. According to officials, the Hashemite country has notified Washington that it is ready to "discuss" the issue with Israel once Ramadan is over. 

The meeting would seek to "address the roots of the tension and ensure that issues do not flare up again". They added that Washington had received a document "clearly" stating Jordan's position on the incursions. 

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AFP/ ABBAS MOMANI - A large number of Palestinians arrive at the Israeli-controlled Qalandia checkpoint in the occupied West Bank to reach Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque on the occasion of Laylat al-Qadr.

In addition, Amman called on Washington to demand that Israel "respect the historical situation that existed before 2000", the year in which the Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, began. This period, which lasted five years, saw suicide bombings become widespread and violence put an end to the possibility of building a peace process. In addition, occupations by Jewish settlers multiplied, along with assassinations and excessive intimidation on both sides. 

For its part, Israel has banned non-Muslim visits to the compound until the end of Ramadan, which would be "a good step towards respecting the status quo and easing tensions and restoring calm", according to Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi. 

Despite this gesture, Muslim leaders are "concerned" that Israel may try to divide the compound to create an area where Jews can pray, which Lapid has denied to journalists. 

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AFP/AFP - Map of the Old City of Jerusalem

Meanwhile, a week ago several rockets were fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. These offensives once again raised fears that a clash between Hamas and the Israeli army could occur again, as it did a year ago, when the offensives went on for 11 days, claiming the lives of 230 Palestinians and 13 Jews.