Israel has moved to block construction work in the Dome of the Rock mosque in East Jerusalem after raising concerns over machinery being used to restore tiles.
The mosque, which is located in the Al-Aqsa compound, was undergoing a planned carpet change after the old one had become worn out when it was discovered that the tiles also needed renovation.
As the official custodian of the Al-Aqsa compound, the Jordanian government, which donated a new carpet, is in charge of the maintenance and restoration of the mosque as it has been since 1924.
However, Israel’s Construction Minister Uri Ariel decided to intervene by sending an official letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stating his alarm over the the use of machines in the building.
“This is an unprecedented renovation and Israel should examine the entire process and dispatch a technical committee to supervise the work in the Temple Mount site,” he wrote, referring to the Al-Aqsa compound.
Chairman of the al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowments and Heritage, Amir al-Khatib, slammed the intervention, saying that Israel had no right to interfere with the third holiest site in Islam, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967.
Head of the Committee for the Defense of Silwan, Fakhri Abu Diab, also accused Israel of trying to undermine Jordan’s custodianship over the compound.
“If Israel really sends in a committee to supervise the installation of the mosque carpet in the Dome of the Rock, this will automatically mean the Jordanian government does not have any kind of control or sovereignty over the compound,” he told Gulf News.
“Neither the Israeli ruins and antiquities department nor any other Israeli department has any role to play in carpet replacement,” he said, adding that the Jordanian authorities had informed both Israel and UNESCO about the planned renovation.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned last month that East Jerusalem was experiencing its final pre-Judaization moments, while the Al-Aqsa Foundation previously said the Israeli occupation is accelerating settlement construction in an effort to obliterate Islamic landmarks in the vicinity of the Aqsa compound.
In May 2013, the Israeli Foreign Ministry canceled a planned visit to the compound by UNESCO, prompting condemnation from the Arab League, which accused Israel of keeping its policy of “Judaizing” Jerusalem out of the public eye.
Palestinians are often barred from worshipping at the Al-Aqsa compound, which is also targeted frequently by radical Jews who raid the compound to perform rituals on the site.
Israelis refer to the compound as the “Temple Mount” as they believe the site was once home to an ancient temple, which some religious groups would like to see rebuilt upon its old foundations.
Archeological excavations near the site have alarmed Palestinians, who complain tunnels being dug underneath the compound are intentionally destabilizing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and causing irreparable damage.