Netanyahu's office claims Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is part of Israel

Netanyahu's office claims Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is part of Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office claimed that the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, located in Palestine, is part of Israel.
3 min read
06 March, 2024
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, located in occupied East Jerusalem, is the third holiest site in Islam [Mohammad Hamad/Anadolu/Getty]

Israel will allow worshippers to access the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in similar numbers to past years for the first week of Ramadan.

The decision regarding the occupied East Jerusalem holy site was made at a meeting of "all security elements" led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his office said on Tuesday on X, formerly Twitter.

The statement also claimed that Al-Aqsa, located in Palestine, was part of Israel and suggested members of all religions have a right to worship at the third holiest site in Islam, despite this breaching the longstanding status-quo arrangement governing the compound.

"Ramadan is sacred to Muslims; its sanctity will be upheld this year, as it is every year," Netanyahu's office said.

"During the first week of Ramadan, the entry of worshippers to the Temple Mount will be permitted, similar to the numbers in previous years," the office added, using a Jewish name to refer to the Al-Aqsa compound.

"A weekly assessment of the security and safety aspects will be held; a decision will be made accordingly."

It comes despite far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir having reportedly called on the police to let just a few thousand Muslims access the site in Ramadan.

The extremist minister told Kobi Shabtai, the chief of Israel's police, on Sunday to limit entry so that the force is prepared to quickly address any disruption, the Israeli Maariv newspaper said.

The Islamic Waqf, the body that manages Al-Aqsa, said over four million Muslims worshipped at the sacred place during Ramadan 2023, Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported at the time.

Ramadan is often a particularly tense period in Jerusalem, and Israeli forces have previously attacked worshippers at Al-Aqsa.

The holy month, set to begin on Sunday or Monday, will be particularly tense this year as Israel wages its war on the Gaza Strip, which has so far killed more than 30,700 people.

Internationally mediated negotiations on reaching a ceasefire deal before Ramadan have yet to produce an agreement.

The Tuesday statement from Netanyahu's office said: "Israel strongly safeguards freedom of worship for all faiths, at all sites in Israel, especially the Temple Mount."

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However, Al-Aqsa is located in Palestine and non-Muslims are permitted only to visit – but not worship at – the site under the status-quo agreement in force there.

Israel has occupied Palestine's West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967.

Palestinians fear that Israeli officials will eventually try to either replace the mosque with a Jewish temple or divide the holy place between Muslims and Jews in terms of time and space available.

Israel settlers and authorities have long sought to transform East Jerusalem from a Palestinian Muslim and Christian area into a Jewish area.

Threats to the sanctity of Al-Aqsa are a major issue for many Palestinians and Muslims around the world.