Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Muslims across the world to “visit” and “protect” Jerusalem, slamming what he said was an “unacceptable” infringement on Palestinians’ rights to a holy site.
The issue is less to do with the physical barriers but the view Israel is trying to exert control over the sacred site.
The Muslim body, which oversees the holy compound, the Waqf, called on worshippers to boycott the temple until the issue was resolved.
But in a differing message, Mr Erdogan issued a rallying cry for Muslims to “protect” Jerusalem.
The leader’s comments on Tuesday came after days of violence sparked over access to the al-Aqsa mosque in the city’s Noble Sanctuary, known as the Temple Mount in Judaism.
The site is sacred to both Muslims and Jews and as such is a recurrent flash point in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
He criticised what he called the “unacceptable” infringement on Palestinians’s right at the site.
Speaking in the Turkish capital, the leader said: “From here I make a call to all Muslims. Anyone who has the opportunity should visit Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa mosque.
“Come, let’s all protect Jerusalem.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s cabinet voted Monday night to dismantle metal detectors set up outside the sacred compound in response to an attack there by an Arab gunman that killed two Israeli police officers on 14 July.
Palestinians alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the Muslim administered site, the care of which is overseen by neighbouring Jordan. Israel has denied the accusations.
The new security measures and attempts to deny Muslim men under the age of 50 access to the site for prayers led to mass protests in the contested capital.
At least four Palestinians were killed in street clashes and three Israeli settlers were killed in their West Bank home in the ensuing unrest. On Sunday, two Jordanians were killed by an Israeli guard after one attacked him at the Israeli embassy in Amman, sparking a diplomatic incident with Jordan.
While the metal detectors are being dismantled, Israel’s capitulation did not go far enough for Mr Erdogan, who had previously spoken to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin urging for the status quo in Jerusalem to be restored.
“From here I make a call to all Muslims. Anyone who has the opportunity should visit Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa mosque,” Mr Erdogan said in Ankara. “Come, let’s all protect Jerusalem”, he added.
Mr Erdogan also criticised what he said was the use of “excessive” Israeli force to break up recent protests.
There have been several high profile calls for Palestinians to continue protesting by praying outside the site until other measures added earlier this month such as CCTV cameras are also removed.
Jerusalem’s Supreme Islamic Committee is due to meet later on Tuesday to discuss whether the steps taken by Israel are sufficient for Muslim worshippers to return to the sacred compound.