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Jordan Team Resumes Probe of Mount’s ‘Bulge’

A Jordanian delegation resumed repair work on the Temple Mount’s southern wall in Jerusalem’s Old City Monday. The delegation, headed by Raef Najim, vice president of the state-run Jordanian Construction Company and a former Jordanian minister responsible for the Jordanian waqf, or Islamic religious trust, has been authorized to work on the Temple Mount by Israel’s government. Najim has close ties with Jordan’s Hashemite ruling family.

Two months ago the delegation took samples from parts of the Mount’s southern wall that have been damaged. The team is expected to complete its work by the end of the spring. The Jordanian team came to examine a bulge in the southern wall after the waqf refused to allow Israel’s Antiquities Authority to examine it.

Last week, Najim defined his official work title as “deputy head of the Jordanian committee for the repair of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.” The committee is directly subordinate to Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and it was responsible for restoration work at Al-Aqsa after the mosque was burned in 1969, and also for work in 1994 on the gold covering of the Dome of the Rock.

Several months ago Najim was appointed, with Israel’s consent, to head a team of four Jordanian engineers whose task is to examine a bulge in the Temple Mount’s southern wall, which grazes the Al-Aqsa mosque, and the newly renovated Solomon’s Stable mosque below Al-Aqsa. Israeli authorities warned that damage caused by the protrusion might bring about the wall’s collapse.

After the bulge was discovered, Israel’s government decided to invite the Jordanian committee to oversee the examination surveys and renovation work on the Temple Mount, in the belief that such Jordanian activity might weaken the Palestinian Authority’s control on the Mount. Via its security branches, the P.A. has effectively controlled affairs on the Temple Mount since 1996, even though Temple Mount waqf officials continue to receive salaries from Jordan.

In his remarks Monday, Najim also tossed a barb at the P.A., saying that the Jordanian waqf is the sole body authorized to reach decisions about the Temple Mount. The Palestinian waqf, he said, “has no connection with this area and does not play a role in it.”

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