Oman minister makes rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem holy site

A picture taken on Feb. 15, 2018 shows Omani minister responsible for foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi (4th-R), visiting Al-Aqsa mosques compound in Arab east Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Oman minister makes rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem holy site

JERUSALEM: Oman’s foreign minister made a rare visit by an Arab official to a Jerusalem holy site on Thursday after holding talks with Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank.
Yusuf bin Alawi visited the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, an AFP journalist reported.
His visit comes in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, a move that angered the Muslim world.
Such a visit would usually require coordination with Israeli officials. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said he was unaware of the visit and could not immediately comment.
Oman and Israel do not have official diplomatic relations, as is the case with most of the Arab world.
The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third-holiest site for Muslims and the scene of regular tensions between Palestinians and Israeli authorities.
It is on the hill that Jews refer to as the Temple Mount, the most sacred place in Judaism as the site of the first and second Jewish temples in the biblical era.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken repeatedly of improving ties with Arab nations in recent months, but there was no sign of a link to the minister’s visit.
Bin Alawi visited the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque at the compound and said “it is a duty of Arabs to visit the mosque if they can.”
Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the most sensitive in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. It sees the entire city as its capital.
The Palestinians want Jerusalem’s eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Bin Alawi met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah earlier in the day.


Gaza officials: 20 Palestinians wounded at Israeli border

Updated 15 min 4 sec ago
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Gaza officials: 20 Palestinians wounded at Israeli border

  • Gaza’s Health Ministry says 20 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli fire along the border fence.
  • A few thousand Palestinians attended Friday’s rally near the border with a few dozen venturing toward the fence.

GAZA CITY: Gaza’s Health Ministry says 20 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli fire along the border fence.
A few thousand Palestinians attended Friday’s rally near the border with a few dozen venturing toward the fence.
Some launched flaming kites at Israel. The devices have destroyed forests and crops and killed animals in recent weeks in Israel.
The militant group Hamas that rules Gaza has led three months of protests that turned violent. Over 120 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.
Israel says it is defending its border and nearby communities and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the fence and carry out attacks.
Rallies are aimed in part at drawing attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.