"All signs and data indicate an escalation in the frequency of violations against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings during this year through a series of unprecedented trespasses, which constitute an infringement on the historical and legal status of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque as an Islamic mosque for Muslims alone under the patronage of King Abdullah II (of Jordan)," said Khatib.
The Waqf director warned against attempts by Israel to "exploit the issue of Al-Aqsa Mosque" as a platform for political achievements and electoral purposes for people and groups "who do not understand the dangers of these actions, in their efforts and insistence to agitate the feelings of millions of Muslims around the world."
According to Khatib, the Waqf is combating all measures against the mosque and all its buildings, including the Gate of Mercy (Bab al-Rahma), from which Muslim worshipers have been distanced.
Tensions escalated around the Gate of Mercy building earlier this year, when the state attempted to prevent the Jordanian Waqf from building an illegal mosque in the structure.
On February 22, Muslim worshipers entered the Gate of Mercy area, a previously closed zone on the Temple Mount; Israel arrested a senior Islamic Waqf authority official on February 24 in response.
In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed authorities to prevent the opening of a mosque at Mercy Gate, but this was not adhered to and construction continued.
The Waqf, an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, administers the Temple Mount site.Visits by religious Jews to the Temple Mount are monitored by Waqf guards and Israeli police – and all Jewish prayer, including silent prayer, is forbidden, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. No sacred Jewish objects, such as prayer books or prayer shawls, may be brought onto the mount, according to the tourism website Tourist Israel.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located at the southern end of the Temple Mount complex, also known as Al Haram Ash Sharif.
According to Yareah, an organization that promotes Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, 30,416 Jews visited the site in 2019. This is the first time that the number of Jewish visitors has exceeded 30,000. Additional non-Jewish Israelis and Israeli tour groups visited the site as well, but are not included in Yaraeh's statistics.
2019 saw over a doubling in the number of Jewish visitors compared to 2015, when 10,906 Jews visited the site. In 2018, 29,939 Jews visited the Temple Mount.
During the Hanukkah holiday, there was a 40% rise in the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount, with 400 more visitors compared to last year.
According to Temple Mount News, activists believe that the growing number of visitors is due to growing public awareness about the Temple Mount and an apparent easing in conditions and restrictions at the site. The easing of restrictions also led some more veteran visitors to the site to visit less frequently than they had been.
The number of Jewish visitors to the site raises "concerns of an organized scheme to change the long-held status quo" on the Temple Mount, according to WAFA.
"Jerusalem, with its Christian and Islamic holy places, is the capital of our eternal state, and it is the jewel of the crown, and it is neither for sale nor for bargaining," said PA president Mahmoud Abbas in a taped speech played at a Fatah rally in Gaza City on Wednesday, according to WAFA. "For its sake, our people have sacrificed convoys of martyrs, prisoners, and wounded. Without Jerusalem and its Aqsa Mosque and Holy Sepulcher as the capital of the State of Palestine, there will be no peace and stability."
Last week, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry condemned Israeli visits to the Temple Mount, referring to them as "ongoing Israeli violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque," according to Jordan's official news agency.
The agency mentioned a recent visit by an unnamed Israeli member of Knesset to the Temple Mount. Likud MK Sharren Haskel visited recently, according to her spokesperson. Former MK Moshe Feiglin also visited the Temple Mount with his son two weeks ago.
The Jerusalem Post recently revealed that Jewish visitors to the site have started praying undisturbed by police forces. As of the end of December, police officers continued to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, according to Jewish visitors to the site.
The Temple Mount is open to Jewish entry Sunday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. (10:30 a.m. in the winter) and again from 1:30 p.m. until 2:30 p.m.
Seth J. Frantzman, Jeremy Sharon and Ilanit Chernick contributed to this report.