Occupied Jerusalem: Palestinian political and religious leaders on Sunday stressed that US President Barack Obama should not visit the Al Aqsa mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem in a way that might compromise its “Muslim sovereignty.”
Obama will be arriving in Israel and the Palestinian territories next month, and Palestinian media is speculating that he will visit Al Haram Al Sharif.
It houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosques.
The Old City complex is controlled by the Islamic authority known as the Waqf, which allows non-Muslims entry to the site only through one portal, Al Maghariba Gate, where Israeli police monitor visitors.
Shaikh Akrameh Sabri, head of the higher Islamic council and former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, said that Obama must enter through a gate that was not under Israeli auspices.
“Any visitor is welcome to Al Aqsa, but they should follow the regulations of the Waqf and enter through the Lions’ Gate and not through Al Maghariba Gate, to ensure Muslim sovereignty,” he said at a press conference.
Hatem Abdul Qader, who heads the Jerusalem portfolio of the Fatah movement, said Obama’s visit should be coordinated with the Palestinians and Jordanians.
Israel seized east Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, and the Al Aqsa complex has since remained under Jordanian religious control.
“The visit shouldn’t have a political theme to it because Al Aqsa belongs to Muslims only and it is their place of worship and we refuse that any Israeli official accompanies the visitor,” said Sabri.
The head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Shaikh Raed Salah, said the Jewish state had “no sovereignty over Al Aqsa or Jerusalem.”
The White House has announced neither the dates of Obama’s visit, which Israeli media says will begin on March 20, nor its itinerary.