Israeli settlers raid Jordan border


A tour guide holds an umbrella in front of a wooden ramp leading to the sacred compound where the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine stand, in  Jerusalem’s Old City Dec. 12, 2011.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers raided the Jordanian borders on Monday evening in protest over Amman’s involvement in a dispute over a footbridge to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said initial reports indicated that 30 Israelis crossed the security fence and entered a closed military zone on the border of the West Bank and Jordan, but she said they had not entered Jordanian territory.

She added that Israeli soldiers and border police were “operating to restore order” in the area.

The right-wing Israelis barricaded themselves after nightfall at a Christian holy site by the banks of the Jordan River revered by many Christians as the place where biblical Saint John was baptized.

The settlers, known as the “Hilltop youth,” were threatening to establish an outpost in the area as Israeli soldiers looked on from the border, the Hebrew-language news site Maariv reported.

According to Israel’s Channel 2, the group are threatening to breach the border.

The settlers are protesting Jordan’s role in a row over a footbridge to the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israel on Monday closed the ramp after Jerusalem’s city engineer deemed it structurally unsafe. Israeli media reports said Israel would consult with the king of Jordan, the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, on the future of the bridge.

The ramp was to have been torn down last month but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed the demolition on the advice of Israeli diplomats and security officials, government officials said.

Netanyahu was cautioned that removing the structure and building a new bridge could enrage Muslims, especially in turbulent Egypt, who might believe the work could damage al-Aqsa, said the officials, who insisted no harm would come to existing buildings.

Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem, said Islamic religious authorities opposed demolition of the existing structure and construction of a new one.

Any construction at the site can be politically explosive. During Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, his opening in 1996 of a new entrance to an access tunnel for tourists near the compound touched off Muslim protests and gun battles in which 60 Palestinians and 15 Israelis were killed.

( / 12.12.2011)

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