UN envoy calls for all sides to 'act responsibly' after Al Aqsa mosque raid

Rockets were fired overnight from Gaza into Israel, prompting retaliatory Israeli air strikes

Israeli police detain a Palestinian man at Al Aqsa Mosque compound on Wednesday. AFP
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The UN's top Middle East envoy has called on all parties to “act responsibly” and avoid further escalation after Israeli police clashed with Palestinians inside Jerusalem's flashpoint Al Aqsa Mosque compound.

“I call on political, religious and community leaders on all sides to reject incitement, inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions,” said Tor Wennesland, Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, in a statement on Wednesday,

“The historic status quo of the holy sites must be upheld, in line with the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”

Israeli armed police in riot gear stormed the mosque's prayer hall before dawn on Wednesday, aiming to dislodge “lawbreaking youths and masked agitators” whom they said had barricaded themselves inside following evening prayers.

The clashes sparked an exchange of rockets from Gaza and air strikes from Israel, as violence flared during the period where the Jewish holiday of Passover overlaps with Ramadan.

“This holy period and places of worship should be for safe and peaceful religious reflection,” Mr Wennesland said, noting that nearly 600,000 people have visited the holy sites in Jerusalem since the beginning of Ramadan.

Mr Wennesland said the indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza is “unacceptable and must stop”. He added that he was “disturbed” by the “apparent beating” of Palestinians by Israeli security forces and the large number of arrests.

The White House said it was “extremely concerned” by the violence, and urged both Israelis and Palestinians to show restraint.

“We remain extremely concerned by the continuing violence and we urge all sides to avoid further escalation,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“It’s imperative, now more than ever, that both Israelis and Palestinians work together to de-escalate this tension and to restore a sense of calm."

The UAE strongly condemned the storming of Al Aqsa Mosque. In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation ‏reiterated its "firm position" on the need to provide protection for the mosque and "halt serious and provocative violations taking place".

The Muslim Council of Elders, led by Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, also condemned Israel's raid on the mosque and the subsequent attack on worshippers.

In a statement, the council said it reaffirmed its rejection of the transgressions carried out against the Palestinian people and Islamic places of worship.

"The council calls on the international community to take necessary action to bring to a halt these provocative actions against the Palestinian people and to support their rightful quest in establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," said the statement.

On Sunday, King Abdullah II said “It is the duty of every Muslim to deter Israeli escalations against holy sites in Jerusalem”.

Militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have called for Palestinians to confront Israeli forces at Al Aqsa.

The UAE and China called on Tuesday for an informal Security Council meeting, at the request of Palestine and Jordan.

The council is expected to convene on Thursday, diplomats said.

Updated: April 06, 2023, 7:53 AM