AMMAN, Sept. 25 -- Jordan condemned Wednesday Israel's opening of a tunnel along the Western Wall in Jerusalem near the Old City's al- Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest shrine in Islam. Echoing criticism of the Israeli move by Jordan's crown prince, the press officer for Prime Minister Abdul Karim al-Kabariti, Ghadeer Taher, said Jordan was urging Israel to reverse its decision to open the tunnel for tourists. 'This move particularly harms the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, and what threatens the Palestinians threatens Jordan,' she told United Press International. Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital, and talks are scheduled to resume Thursday on the city's future. More than half of Jordan's population is of Palestinian origin. Officials have warned that renewed unrest in Palestinian self-rule areas could spill into Jordan and cause political and economic harm. Al-Kabariti's aide stopped short of saying the tunnel would threaten the Jordan-Israel peace treaty signed in October 1994. She would not say whether the Amman government would slow down the development of relations with Israel. Palestinians protested Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip against Israeli excavations under holy sites in the Old City. In Jerusalem, Palestinian sources said Wednesday more than 130 people were wounded -- one of them critically with a gunshot wound -- in clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank and Jerusalem over the Israeli excavation. Palestinian leaders have called for a commercial strike to protest the tunnel. Similar tensions in the Old City in 1990 sparked a riot in which 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces.
Crown Prince Hassan told Jordan's official news agency Petra on Tuesday night that the Israeli tunnel was a 'blatant provocation of Arab and Muslim sentiments.' He described the project as a 'violation of the sanctity of the Holy City and the historical Arab and Islamic architecture there.' Jordan, which controlled the West Bank and East Jerusalem until the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, has maintained its custodianship over the al-Aqsa Mosque despite disengaging from its administrative links with the occupied territories in 1988. In April 1994, Israel recognized Jordan's custodianship over the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. In Gaza on Tuesday, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat accused Israel of opening the tunnel to allow Jews to reach a Muslim holy site. 'What has happened is an extremely dangerous action,' Arafat said at a memorial service. 'This is a continuation of the attempts...to make it easier for the Israeli fanatics to pray in the holy mosque.' Palestinians fear the tunnel will encourage more excavation under what Jews call the Temple Mount and that Jewish extremists might try to dig through an ancient gate in the tunnel to the mosque, where some believe the Ten Commandments were kept in ancient times. 'The entire tunnel is outside the Temple Mount,' Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert replied. 'All the attempts to present this as a dig under the foundations of the mosque are false.' The most recent excavations of the 547-yard tunnel connecting the Jewish and Christian quarters of the Old City began about 15 years ago, but the previous Israeli government stalled the opening for political reasons. The tunnel, opened early this week, leads underground along Judaism's holiest site, the Western Wall of the ancient temple, out to the Via Dolorosa, where Christians believe Jesus took his last steps before the Crucifixion. The tunnel's entrance is marked by a simple metal door smelling of fresh paint that opens among shops selling olive-wood carvings of Jesus.