Royal visit to Jerusalem –The cousin of Jordan's King Abdullah, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, arrived on Wednesday for a visit at Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
He was likely accompanied by the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, a top Egyptian Islamic cleric, who wrote on his Twitter account that the symbolic visit was in solidarity with the Palestinians' claim to east Jerusalem. He prayed in the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, during his two-hour visit.
Prince Ghazi arrives in Jerusalem (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Gomaa called the trip an unofficial visit, clearly an attempt to defuse criticism he is already facing for breaking an unofficial ban by Muslim clerics and most Egyptian professional and private associations on visiting Israel or Israeli-controlled Palestinian territories. The Egyptian Coptic Church, and most Muslim clerics around the region generally uphold the ban as well.
Palestinian sources said that the Jordanian prince was accompanied by a senior Jordanian security official, and that the visit was most likely related to the renovation of the Mughrabi Bridge, which leads into the courtyard of al-Aqsa mosque.
Came to see the Mughrabi Bridge up close? (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
The spokesman for Egypt's powerful Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ghozlan, said the mufti's visit was "very strange."
"Muslim clerics have taken a position that there is no visiting Jerusalem with continued Israeli occupation," Ghozlan said. "He violated this opinion of the majority of clerics. Why, I don't know."
The mufti's spokesman, Ibrahim Negm, said the visit was organized by the Jordanian royal family to inaugurate an Islamic research center. Gomaa is a member of the board of trustees of the center named after a renowned Islamic theologian from the 12th century.
"This is not political. It is a scientific and not political visit," Negm said. He defended the mufti's visit, saying there are two different ways of dealing with the issue, not one.
The Jordanian Ministry of Religious Endowment said the visit followed calls from Palestinian officials, including President Mahmoud Abbas, for Muslims to visit the mosque as a way to establish a Palestinian and Arab presence in the disputed city.
Two weeks ago, the Hashemite king's son, Prince Hashim Bin al-Hussein arrived on a secret visit to Jerusalem, during which he prayed at al-Aqsa mosque.
The visit was not coordinated with the Defense Ministry, which permits the entry of Jordanian citizens into Israel.
Ministry officials stated that Jordan's interior minister also paid a visit to Israel. "We have an interest in letting Jordanians have access to east Jerusalem and Islam's holy places. It's important that they come here, even without coordinating with the Foreign Ministry," the officials said.
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