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US to Israel: Allow Muslims to worship at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan

The United States has urged Israel to allow Muslims to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem during Ramadan after a far-right minister proposed…

The United States has urged Israel to allow Muslims to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem during Ramadan after a far-right minister proposed barring Palestinians from the occupied West Bank from praying there.

“As it pertains to Al-Aqsa, we continue to urge Israel to facilitate access to Temple Mount for peaceful worshippers during Ramadan consistent with past practice,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters on Wednesday, using the Jewish term for the site, the holiest in Judaism.

“That’s not just the right thing to do, it’s not just a matter of granting people religious freedom that they deserve and to which they have a right, but it’s also a matter that directly is important to Israel’s security,” he said.

“It is not in Israel’s security interest to inflame tensions in the West Bank or in the broader region.”

Israel has been assessing how to address worship in Jerusalem during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that will start on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

The month of fasting comes as Israel wages a relentless military campaign in the Gaza Strip in response to an attack by Hamas inside Israel on October 7.

Hamas has called for a mass movement on Al-Aqsa for the start of Ramadan.

“We call on our people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the occupied interior (Israel) to travel to Al-Aqsa from the first day of the blessed month of Ramadan, in groups or alone, to pray there to break the siege on it,” Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised statement Wednesday.

Last week, Israeli National Security Minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, said Palestinian residents of the West Bank “should not be allowed” entry to Jerusalem to pray during Ramadan.

Ben Gvir leads a hard-right party advocating Jewish control of the compound.

The United States has been pressing for a deal before Ramadan begins in which Israel would halt strikes in the Gaza Strip and hostages snatched on October 7 would be freed.

The Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 29,954 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest figures by the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Meanwhile, the United States president, Joe Biden, has confirmed that Israel has agreed not to engage in military activities during Ramadan in the Gaza Strip.

Biden revealed this when he appeared on NBC on Monday.

The US president, whose remarks were recorded on Monday and broadcast on Tuesday, said there was an agreement in principle for a ceasefire between the two sides while hostages were released.

“Ramadan is coming up, and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan, as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” he said. (AFP, Reuters)

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