Israel blocks Al-Aqsa access to Jews and tourists for end of Ramadan
A measure intended to ease tensions in Jerusalem's holy sites, the scene of clashes between police and Muslim. The opposition accuses Bennett of giving in to extremists. The reply: a measure similar to those taken in the past by Netanyahu. Regional diplomacy moves to favour a de-escalation. First violence in months from the Gaza Strip.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - For the last days of Ramadan, the Islami choly month of fasting and prayer that ends in early May with the feast of Eid al Fitr, the Israeli police will block access to the Al-Aqsa Mosques, in Jerusalem, to Jewish believers and tourists. A measure taken in these hours, in an attempt to avert new tensions and violence between security forces and Muslim believers after last week's clashes that caused hundreds of injuries.
Meanwhile, parliamentarians and far-right groups accuse Naftali Bennett and his government, increasingly fragile and precarious, of capitulating in front of the rioters and "delivering a reward in the hands of the enemy.
However, the Prime Minister's party recalls that this practice was also adopted by predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu in the past, during the most tense phases. Tomorrow is scheduled a meeting with police chief Kobi Shabtai to decide the starting date of the ban, usually is in force in the last 10 days of Islamic holidays. A sensitive period, during which many believers visit and stop in the night in the square in front of the places of worship.
The movements linked to the Temple - an umbrella organization that brings together several radical Jewish groups who want to overturn the status quo and claim sovereignty over the area, identified as the Temple Mount - say that the government wants to close access for 12 days. In the past, the attack continues, it was customary to block off the area only during the last three or four days of Ramadan. Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, of the Religious Zionist Party, affirm that "closing the Temple Mount to Jews, the holiest place for the people of Israel, is a victory for Hamas, for terrorism, for the riots unleashed by our enemies". In a note, the premier's party, Yamina, replies that the decision is taken only on the basis of "security considerations" and "recommendations" arrived from the Defense. "Last year - the statement continues - Netanyahu closed the Temple Mount for 19 days under pressure from Hamas."
The escalation of tension and clashes at holy sites in Jerusalem is souring relations between Israel on the one hand, and the United Arab Emirates and Jordan on the other after progress on the level of diplomatic relations in the last period. The Israeli government attacked Jordan's prime minister yesterday after Bisher al-Khasawneh extolled the Palestinians' uprising at the Esplanade and clashes with the Israeli Security Forces. Amman also summoned the Israeli ambassador - replaced by the deputy because he was out of the country - for consultations.
Previously it was the Hashemite King Abdullah II himself to launch an appeal to Israel to "put an end to illegal provocative measures" in the area. The Israeli authorities, added the monarch, must respect "the status quo" in its historical and legal terms and cooperate in an attempt to defuse the growing conflicts in the area.
On April 17, a long telephone conversation took place between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas, during which they expressed "firm condemnation" for the raids and "provocations" of the Jewish state. Ankara's leader then spoke with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, with the latter urging them not to listen to "rumors" that only want to sow discord and "act responsibly for calm" in these days of celebration.
However, the effects of the escalation in Jerusalem can already be seen on the ground with the first violence recorded in the Gaza area. Yesterday, the fighter planes with the Star of David carried out some raids in the Strip - the first in months - in response to the launching of rockets from the Palestinian enclave towards the south of Israel, where alarm sirens resounded for a long time. On the night of April 18-19, Hamas fired several rockets, which were neutralized by the Israeli defense system or crashed into the sea off the coast of Tel Aviv.