Israel ‘committed’ to status quo
No change to consensus over Al-Aqsa Mosque, says FM
Published: Apr 25, 2022 05:17 PM
Palestinians hurl stones at Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on April 22, 2022. (Photo: Xinhua)

Palestinians hurl stones at Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on April 22, 2022. (Photo: Xinhua)

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Sunday that Israel was "committed" to the status quo that prevents Jews praying at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the epicenter of repeated clashes.

His comments follow violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories that has killed 38 people since late March, with tensions further fueled by the clashes in Jerusalem and exchanges of fire between Israel and the Gaza Strip Palestinian enclave.

"Muslims pray on the Temple Mount, non-Muslims only visit," Lapid said, using the Jewish term for the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, the holiest place in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam.

Palestinian Muslims have been angered by an uptick in Jewish visits to the Al-Aqsa compound, where by long-standing convention Jews may visit but are not allowed to pray.

"There is no change. There will be no change - we have no plans to divide the Temple Mount between religions," Lapid told journalists.

Palestinian protesters have repeatedly clashed with Israeli riot police at the Al-Aqsa compound since the middle of the month, leaving hundreds injured as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincided with Jewish Passover.

Attacks by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs have since late March killed 14 people in Israel, while 24 Palestinians have died, including perpetrators of attacks and also in raids by Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank. 

The recent violence in east Jerusalem sparked fears of another armed conflict similar to an 11-day war in 2021 between Israel and the militant group Hamas, triggered by similar unrest at Al-Aqsa.

Late Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with US President Joe Biden and "updated him on the efforts to stop the violence and incitement in Jerusalem," a statement from the premier's office said. 

Biden accepted a prior invitation by Bennett to visit Israel and said during the call that he would do so in "the coming months," the statement added.

Palestinian officials and militants have repeatedly accused Israel of seeking to divide Al-Aqsa into Jewish and Muslim sections, as with another sensitive holy site in nearby Hebron.

But Lapid accused Hamas - which rules Gaza - and Islamic Jihad of sending "extremists" with weapons and explosives to use the Al-Aqsa compound "as a base to incite violent riots."