JERUSALEM (AA) – U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman provoked outrage among Palestinians after he was photographed carrying a picture of Haram al-Sharif in which the Jewish Temple is superimposed over the Al-Aqsa mosque.
The picture was initially posted by an Israeli non-governmental organization which the ambassador visited on Tuesday, following which it began circulating on social media.
Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in a statement, said the smile on the ambassador's face while he receives the picture is self-explanatory.
"How long will these despicable U.S. actions remain without an Arab and Islamic response worthy of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the greatness of the Haram Al-sharif?” Erekat said.
“They are attacking the first Qibla in Islam and turning the conflict into a religious conflict,” he added.
The U.S. Embassy responded to the criticism claiming the ambassador was unaware of the content of the picture.
"Ambassador Friedman was not aware of the image thrust in front of him when the photo was taken,” the statement said.
"The US policy is absolutely clear: we support the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” it added.
On Dec. 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
The shift in the longstanding U.S. policy on Jerusalem sparked angry demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories and in several Muslim countries.
Recent protests on the Gaza Strip left 65 Palestinians martyred and thousands of others injured by Israeli gunfire.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — now occupied by Israel — might eventually serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.