Chad President visits Al-Aqsa Mosque under Israeli protection ahead of embassy opening, sparking fury

Chad President visits Al-Aqsa Mosque under Israeli protection ahead of embassy opening, sparking fury
Chad's president, Mahamat Deby, has sparked fury by visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of Israeli security forces, one day before the opening of the Chadian embassy in Israel.
3 min read
02 February, 2023
Chad President Mahamat Deby with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel [Anadolu via Getty]

Chad's President Mahamat Deby has been condemned for visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, guarded by Israeli security forces, one day before he is due to inaugurate the Chadian embassy in Israel.

The visit to Al-Aqsa, the third holiest mosque in Islam, was condemned by Hamas, whose spokesperson, Mohammed Hamada, described the move as a "great provocation" and a symbol of "the denial of Palestinian people's rights and the feelings of the families of the martyrs and prisoners".

Hamada also criticised Deby’s decision to inaugurate Chad's embassy in Israel.

In videos circulating online, Deby and his delegation can be seen surrounded by a large number of Israeli security forces, as he makes his way inside the mosque. He then proceeds to pray amongst other worshippers as Israeli police watch over him.

Palestinian activists denounced the president's visit, criticising him for praying in what is arguably Palestine's most famous landmark and a symbol of resistance against Israeli occupation, shortly after engaging in  "normalisation" talks with the Israeli leadership.

The Chadian leader is on the 48-hour visit to Israel, where he has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief David Barnea ahead of the embassy's inauguration. The embassy’s location however, has not been disclosed by official sources.

Deby’s visit to Israel is his first since becoming president in 2021, while his father, the late President Idris Deby also visited five years prior.

The embassy’s opening comes as both countries renewed diplomatic relations in 2018, following the visit by the elder Deby.

Chad, a Muslim-majority country with a large Arab population, originally established diplomatic ties with Israeli in 1961 but later severed them, along with many other African states, in 1972.

An Israeli ambassador, the first in almost 50 years, arrived in the capital N'Djamena in May last year.

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Mahamat Deby's visit to Israel comes soon after a string of normalisation deals between Arab states and Israel, which have drawn near-unanimous condemnation from Palestinians – as well as disapproval from most of the Arab public, according to opinion polls. 

The moves have been described as a "stab in the back" by Palestinians as Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and besiege the Gaza Strip. At least 36 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces so far this year.

Deby’s visit to Israel and the Al-Aqsa Mosque came as Israel launched multiple airstrikes against the Gaza Strip.