Kerry says Aqsa Mosque security to be boosted amid clashes

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets King Abdullah II of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman over increasing clashes around Al Aqsa Mosque compound

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Jordan's King Abdullah (R) meets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Royal palace in Amman, Jordan, October 24, 2015.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that Jordan and Israel have agreed to boost security around the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem, which has long been a flash point of flaring tensions between Palestinians and Israelis.

Incidents have been increasing since September when Israeli police carried out a raid on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, one of the holiest places in Islam, to prevent possible protests against Jews entering the grounds to perform rituals.

As a result of the raid, a number of Palestinian worshippers were injured and Palestinian access to the compound was restricted.

Speaking after a meeting in Amman with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Kerry said that the measures included 24-hour security cameras to be set up around the site.

“This will provide comprehensive visibility and transparency and that could really be a game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of the holy site,” Kerry said.

The other measures would be announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on in the day, Kerry said.

Kerry has also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his official visit to the Jordanian capital, where they have been addressing the increasing violence between Jews and Palestinians in Israel.

So far this month, at least 52 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli police in the occupied West Bank, many of whom were accused of attempting to harm Jewish settlers.

The latest incident occurred on Saturday when a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was killed at the Jalameh crossing after he reportedly attempted to stab an Israeli police officer.

Nine Israelis have also been killed by Palestinian assailants in recent weeks.

After meeting Abbas, Kerry also said he hoped a solution to the escalating violence would come soon, without giving further details.

"All the violence and the incitement to violence must stop. Leaders must lead," Kerry told reporters.

Al Aqsa status under spotlight

Kerry’s contacts in Amman came after he met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday in Berlin, where he underlined the need to end “provocative rhetoric” and “start to change the public narrative that comes out of those false perceptions."

The Al Aqsa Mosque, located in the Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, remains under the control of local Muslim authorities and is administered by Jordan in accordance with agreements.

East Jerusalem was occupied and subsequently annexed by Israel following a war in 1967, a move considered illegal by the international community.

Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, demand Israel returns to its pre-1967 borders if a peace deal is to be agreed.

However, the site of Al Aqsa also holds a symbolic value for the Israelis, who call it the Temple Mount after the Temple of Solomon, which which was destroyed by the Babylonians over 2,500 years ago.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups often visit the compound to mark special occasions in the Jewish calendar under the guard of Israeli police, but such visits are viewed as provocative by Palestinian locals.

The visits often result in violent clashes between Israeli police, who block access to the mosque for worshippers, and Palestinians who gather to protest.

After the meeting between Kerry and Abbas, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator remarked that Netanyahu had “changed the status of the Al Aqsa Mosque — that’s why we and Jordan are asking the American side to re-establish the situation.”

“The king has guardianship over Al Aqsa Mosque and the holy places and will not allow this manipulation by Netanyahu,” he added.

TRTWorld and agencies