(JTA) — Oman’s foreign minister visited Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.
Visits by Arab officials to the mosque, which is in east Jerusalem, are rare because they must be coordinated with Israel, which some Arab countries boycott.
Yusuf bin Alawi, who also toured the West Bank, visited Al-Aqsa on Thursday, the Al Arabiya television station reported. Israeli officials declined to comment about whether they were aware in advance of his plans to stop in Jerusalem. To enter the West Bank he would have had to pass through an Israeli checkpoint.
Last week two officials from Qatar and Kuwait visited the mosque, which was built in the 8th century. Another Kuwaiti minister visited last September. None of these countries has diplomatic relations with Israel but all are staunch allies of the United States, as is Oman. In January, Jordan’s interior minister visited it, as well.
Speaking in Ramallah after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, bin Alawi said: “We have to encourage Arabs everywhere to come to Palestine because, as I said, hearing is not the same as seeing. What is needed now is for them to see the Palestinians.”