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US envoy poses with doctored image of east Jerusalem

May 23, 2018

The US embassy in Jerusalem has said Ambassador David Friedman was duped into posing with a controversial photo. The picture had been photoshopped to replace the revered Al-Aqsa mosque with a Jewish temple.


The US ambassador to Israel was at the center of a controversy on Tuesday after he was photographed receiving a doctored image of east Jerusalem in which the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque had been erased.

The picture, published Tuesday night by ultra-Orthodox Jewish news site Kikar Hashabbat, showed the mosque replaced by a simulation of a Jewish temple.

The newly opened US Embassy in Jerusalem said Ambassador David Friedman was tricked into being pictured with the photoshopped image.

The embassy said the image was "thrust" in front of the diplomat without his consent during a visit to a charity in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of Islam's holiest sites; Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from the structure.

Known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif ("Noble Sanctuary") and as Temple Mount to Jews, the larger compound surrounding the mosque sits on land sacred to both religions. It is considered the holiest site in Judaism.

The site in Israel-annexed east Jerusalem has been a frequent flashpoint for violence between Israelis and Palestinians and a major source of tension in the decades-old conflict.

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'Religious conflict'

The controversial picture was published by several Palestinian newspapers on Wednesday.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat was quoted in Palestinian daily Al-Quds as saying that the United States was turning the Israeli-Palestinian dispute "into a religious conflict."

Tensions have worsened between Israel and the Palestinians in the aftermath of the US Embassy move to Jerusalem and the death of over 100 Palestinians in Israeli fire during mass protests along the Gaza border.

The US Embassy said it did not support any change to the status of Jerusalem's holy places.

The US Embassy has demanded an apology from the charity Achiya, whose official presented the controversial picture to Friedman.

The charity told Israeli media that the official had acted on his own initiative without consulting others.

"We regret that a petty political gesture spoiled this event," it added.

ap/kms (AFP)