AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel on Wednesday in protest at an increase in Israeli “violations”, including in Jerusalem and its holy sites, the first time it has done so since the countries made peace in 1994, government officials said.
Jordan has expressed growing alarm over Israeli actions in Jerusalem culminating in last week’s one-day closure of the sacred compound housing Al Aqsa mosque - a move that infuriated the Jordanian king, who is its official custodian.
Tensions over the compound, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest place in Judaism, have fueled daily clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in Jerusalem in recent weeks.
Jordan’s government spokesman, Mohammad al-Momani, said Israeli security forces raided the compound’s main mosque on Wednesday, describing this as “a dangerous escalation”.
Witnesses told Reuters that Israeli security forces had thrown percussion grenades inside the mosque in clashes with stone-throwing Palestinians.
The decision to recall the Jordanian ambassador was taken “in protest at the increasing and unprecedented Israeli escalation in the Noble Sanctuary, and the repeated Israeli violations of Jerusalem”, Jordan’s Petra news agency said.
The Israelis have not yet formally commented.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh was due to travel to Paris to meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss Jerusalem, a Jordanian foreign ministry source said.
Government spokesman Momani said part of a carpet in the mosque had been burnt during Wednesday’s raid. Jordan also plans to lodge a complaint over Israeli actions in Jerusalem with the U.N. Security Council, he said.
Explaining Jordan’s decision to withdraw the ambassador, he said: “This action was taken to protest at the accelerated settlement building and all unilateral steps taken by the Israeli government in East Jerusalem to change the status quo.”
Israel shut the Al Aqsa compound for one day last Thursday following an attack on a far-right Israeli-American activist who was shot and seriously wounded after speaking out against a ban on Jews praying at the site.
Jordanian officials said the site was reopened after the personal intervention of King Abdullah, whose custodianship of the site was recognized in the 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
The compound, which also houses the Dome of the Rock, is run by several hundred Jordanian government employees. Jews are not allowed to pray there.
Jordanian King Abdullah has used unusually tough language in his recent criticism of Israel. Last month, he equated Islamic extremism with Zionist extremism and earlier this week vowed to confront “unilateral” Israeli policies there.
Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky