Middle East Monitor / May 22, 2023
Israel’s occupation government held a cabinet meeting on Sunday in a tunnel underneath Al-Aqsa Mosque in an attempt to demonstrates the Zionist state’s sovereignty over the occupied city of Jerusalem and its holy sites. The tunnel in question is located under Al-Buraq Wall (the “Western Wall”) of the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa.
According to Israeli daily Maariv, during the meeting the cabinet approved a large budget – NIS60 million ($17m) – and a number of Judaization projects for Jerusalem. The budget and projects are aimed at encouraging more tunnels to be dug beneath Al-Aqsa Mosque which, inevitably, weaken the ancient structure.
“Time and again, my friends and I have been forced to repel international pressure on the part of those who would divide Jerusalem again,” AFP quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying. “A few days ago, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] said that the Jewish people do not have links to Jerusalem and Al-Haram, therefore, I am telling him that we are holding our meetings today in the depth of Jerusalem and its Haram.”
The Palestinian factions and Palestinian Authority condemned the government for holding the cabinet meeting underneath Al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time since 2017. “This is a dangerous escalation of the religious war waged by the Israeli occupation against the holy city of Jerusalem,” said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem.
Ahmed Ruwaidi, the advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Jerusalem Affairs, said that the Israeli government is seeking to reinforce its sovereignty in East Jerusalem and to present a false narrative at the expense of the historical reality of the region. He added that the meeting promotes projects aimed at the forcible displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population in the Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.