Half-brother of Jordan's Abdullah visits Al-Aksa

Islamic authorities describe Prince Ali's visit as 'religious, not political,'

By OREN KESSLER,
April 4, 2012 21:01
2 minute read.
Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount 390. (photo credit: Ilan Evyatar)

 
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The half-brother of King Abdullah II of Jordan paid a personal visit to Jerusalem’s al- Aksa Mosque on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry sources and Islamic religious authorities in Jerusalem said.

Sources at the Wakf Muslim religious trust in Jerusalem told The Jerusalem Post that Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein had visited the city as head of a Jordanian delegation. A spokesman for Ali, however, denied the visit, telling The Jerusalem Post the prince had been attending a soccer charity event in Abu Dhabi.

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Initial reports suggested the visitor to Jerusalem had been Crown Prince Hussein, Abdullah’s 17-year-old son.

Foreign Ministry sources said Israeli authorities had been informed of Ali’s visit in order to facilitate his entry to the country.

The sources said the visit did not constitute a formal visit to Israel, and that no meetings had been set up with officials.

Ali ascended to the Mount via Mugrabi Bridge, an elevated wooden walkway connecting the Western Wall Plaza with the Temple Mount. The bridge – built in 2007 and intended to be temporary – has been a source of conflict between Israeli and Wakf authorities over which has the right to conduct repairs to the structure, deemed by Jerusalem city engineers to be unsafe.

Ali, 36, is the son of Jordan’s late King Hussein and his third wife Queen Alia. A brigadier in the Jordanian Armed Forces, he is also vice president for Asia of FIFA, the international soccer governing body.

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Azzam al-Khatib, the Wakf director-general, confirmed in an interview with the Nazarethbased radio station A-Shams that Ali had visited the site accompanied by an Islamic cleric. Khatib said the visit had been “religiously motivated,” and both personal and apolitical.

Still, Khatib added, “The Jordanian royal family continues to watch everything happening in Jerusalem closely, particularly in reference to al-Aksa Mosque.”

Wednesday’s visit was believed to Ali’s first trip to Jerusalem.

His half-brother Abdullah rarely visits Israel. The monarch last visited the country in 2004, making a secret trip to meet then-prime minister Ariel Sharon and air concerns that the West Bank separation barrier could lead to a mass flight of Palestinians into Jordan.

Abdullah also rarely ventures into the Palestinian Authority – in November of last year he visited Ramallah briefly ahead of unity talks between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. It was his first visit to the PA in 11 years.

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