JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel on Wednesday dismantled a newly erected wooden access ramp to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound that would have increased access for non-Muslims but angered Jordan, an AFP correspondent said.
The half-built structure was erected by Israel in the midst of its conflict with Gaza in early August, triggering outrage from Jordan, which overseas Muslim heritage sites in Jerusalem.
It ran alongside a bigger wooden structure – the Mughrabi ramp – that leads from the Western Wall plaza up to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Mughrabi ramp is the only access to the plaza for non-Muslims.
Anything that is viewed as changing the status quo in or around the flashpoint Al-Aqsa compound, which houses the third-holiest site in Islam, is highly sensitive and triggers a strong response from Jordan.
Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the new structure be removed, saying its construction was “illegal” and had never received the proper authorisation, a government source said.
That move was hailed by Jordan and by Wednesday afternoon most of the new ramp had been taken down, an AFP correspondent said.
The ramp’s construction is a politically charged issue because each side claims authority over it.
Israel argues that because the ramp is located outside the Al-Aqsa compound, it should oversee the construction.
And Jordan insists that since the ramp leads to the mosque compound, it should manage or at least be consulted over any new construction plans.
Known to Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif, the sprawling plaza at the southeastern edge of the Old City houses Muslim holy sites the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.
The plaza is also considered the holiest place in Judaism as it is the site where the first and second Jewish Temples once stood.
To one side of the plaza stands the Western Wall, a remnant of the retaining wall that supported the Second Temple complex and currently the holiest site at which Jews can pray.