Jordan king says ‘duty to deter Israeli escalation’ in Jerusalem

Jordan’s King Abdullah II expressed on Sunday a commitment to the “defense” of Jerusalem’s holy sites, at a meeting in Amman with Muslim and Christian religious leaders from the city.

A statement from the royal court said the king told the delegation, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, that Jordan “will always be with you”, according to AFP.

“It is the duty of every Muslim to discourage Israeli elevations against … holy sites in Jerusalem,” the king said, according to the statement.

The meeting came after tensions with the Israeli government over statements by the minister denying the existence of the Palestinian people and fears of a flare-up in the conflict between Israel and Palestine during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began on March 23.

The king expressed a long-standing commitment to preserving “peace and harmony” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem – Islam’s third holiest site, which is administered by Jordan. It is based on what Jews call the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.

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On Friday, Israeli police shot dead an Arab-Israeli medical student at the compound. The force said he grabbed and fired an officer’s gun, a claim denied by Muhammad Al-Osaibi’s family.

Abdullah also praised “Jerusalem… efforts to protect” the holy sites and “emphasize the need to stop the displacement of Christians, as well as the repeated attacks on churches, religious people and Christian property in Jerusalem”, according to the statement.

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On Friday, church leaders in Jerusalem appealed to the Israeli government to ensure Christians were able to worship unhindered during Easter and its run, expressing concern over increasing violence and acts of desecration over the past year.

During Sunday’s meeting the Jordanian king “asked the international community to take a stand against the exclusionary and racist statements made by some Israeli officials recently”, the statement said.

Last month, the Foreign Ministry in Amman said it called Israel’s ambassador to receive a “strongly worded letter of protest” after a speech by far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was widely condemned.

At an event in Paris, Smotrich said “the people of Palestine are not”. He spoke from a lecture hall that featured a map of the so-called Greater Israel Area, including the occupied West Bank and Jordanian areas.

Jordan in 1994 became the second Arab country to recognize and sign a peace treaty with neighboring Israel, after Egypt.

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