Suspicions about Israeli closure of Al Aqsa complex

Two comments, +972 and Ma’an, on why Israeli interference in Muslim worship at Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount is so explosive.

Clashes erupt between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli security forces after authorities sealed off the entrance to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif following a deadly attack on Israeli police officers last week, Jerusalem, July 16. Photo by

Palestinians protest new security measures at Al-Aqsa

Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated against the use of metal detectors outside the holiest Muslim site in the country, following a lethal attack on Israeli security forces late last week.

Photos by Faiz Abu Rmeleh and Oren Ziv, text by Oren Ziv, Active Stills, +972
July 17, 2017

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers held a mass prayer outside the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, after Israeli authorities forced them to pass through metal detectors at the entrance to the compound’s gates.

A Palestinian child rides his bike past the new metal detectors at the entrances to the compound outside the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.

The measure was put in place after the area was closed off for nearly three days, following a lethal attack by three Palestinian citizens last Friday morning, which killed two Israeli police officers at the entrance gates to the holy site. Authorities quickly sealed off all entrances to the compound, the first time in decades it was closed on a Friday, as well as the streets leading to the Old City. Security forces reopened the site to Muslim worshippers on Sunday and to non-Muslims on Monday.

The attempt to place metal detectors at the entrance to the holiest Muslim site in the country was seen by many Palestinians as a cynical move that was meant to exploit instability and change the status quo at the compound.

Israeli police attack a Palestinian protester during clashes following the closure of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to worshippers, in the wake of a deadly attack on Israeli security forces by Palestinian citizens the week before, July 16, 2017, Jerusalem.

Under the status quo, established after Israel captured the site during the 1967 War, Haram al-Sharif, where Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, is managed by the Waqf, an Islamic foundation under the auspices of Jordan. Israel maintains control over access to the site.

The Waqf called on Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.” Throughout the day, hundreds took part in prayers and protests were held outside the gates leading to the compound as well as in the streets leading to the Old City.

Hemmed in by metal railings and barriers Palestinian worshippers hold evening prayers outside the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 16, 2017.

A local Palestinian journalist said that the residents did not understand why they were being forced to pay the price for something they did not do. “I don’t understand why they are shutting down the Old City, when tens of thousands of people live here, adding that “those who carried out the attack are from Umm al-Fahm. I don’t understand why they are punishing all the worshippers.”

According to Israel Radio, 10 people were injured and three were arrested for throwing stones in overnight scuffles with security forces close to the Old City’s Lion’s Gate, near one of the Temple Mount’s nine entrances.

On Monday afternoon, clashes broke out in the Old City when police ordered a group of Muslim protesters off a road which they were trying to block with a prayer session.

Jerusalem leaders call for continued protests against Israeli policies at Al-Aqsa

By Ma’an
July 18, 2017

JERUSALEM — As tensions remained high in the occupied Palestinian territory, with Fatah leaders calling for a Day of Rage to protest Israeli restrictions at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem continued to organize sit-ins and perform prayers in the streets outside the holy site’s gates for the third day on Tuesday.

Israeli authorities have imposed heightened restrictions at Al-Aqsa following its temporary closure when a deadly attack left three assailants and two police officers — all Palestinian citizens of Israel — dead in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City on Friday.

Worshippers have performed prayers at the Lions’ Gate leading to Al-Aqsa since the attack to express their rejection of the Israeli security procedures — including the installation of metal detectors and security cameras at the entrances of Al-Aqsa.

Sheikh Abd al-Athim Salahb, chairman of Jerusalem’s United Council of Waqf, or the Islamic Trust — responsible for running Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, told Ma’an on Tuesday that Palestinians have collectively refused to pass through newly installed metal detectors at the holy site, and demanded that the Israeli-imposed measures be “removed immediately” to allow Muslim worshippers free access to the site.

“The occupations want to change the historic situation in the mosque and implement its plans to divide it both in time and place. But this can’t be accepted since Al-Aqsa, its courtyards, mosques, and passageways are all purely Islamic properties,” Salahb told Ma’an.

Palestinians have long feared that Israeli policies restricting Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa could change the status-quo of the site, which remains under Jordanian control and prohibits non-Muslim worship. However, the site is open to all groups during designated visitation times.

As rights groups and activists have pointed out, Palestinian concerns are not unfounded. Following the Ibrahimi Massacre in Hebron in 1994, Israeli authorities divided the mosque in half, splitting it into a synagogue for Israeli settlers and a mosque for Palestinians.

Palestinians have long accused the Israeli government of using Israeli-Palestinian violence and tensions as a means of furthering control over important sites in the Palestinian territory. To this day, Palestinians in Hebron must pass an Israeli-installed checkpoint in order to access the Ibrahimi Mosque.

Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, head of the Higher Islamic Committee, told Ma’an that religious leaders have continued to organize meetings regularly in order to resist Israel’s new measures. He added that Muslim leaders have been in contact with Jordan, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League, concerning the metal detectors, which Israeli authorities

“have installed in order to impose full sovereignty in Al-Aqsa…We reject this completely and confirm that Muslims have been given sovereignty over Al-Aqsa Mosque by divine order.”

Sheikh Wasif al-Bakri, the supreme judge of Palestine, pointed out that Al-Aqsa essentially “remained close for the fifth day” owing to continued restrictions at the re-opened gates. “Given that situation, we can’t accept that Israeli authorities have reopened the mosque, as they have claimed,” al-Bakri said, and added that it would be “forbidden” for Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa through metal detectors and “complying with the Israeli occupation’s measures.”

Director of Waqf, Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, confirmed that Palestinians would “remain committed to the decisions of religious leaders not to pass through the metal detectors,” and added that Palestinians would continue to refuse until they are completely removed.

Jul 16, 2017. Dozens of Palestinian worshippers gathered for prayers outside Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem, Sunday, to protest new security measures introduced by Israeli authorities, including metal detector and surveillance cameras. Ruptly is a video news agency specializing in video on demand based in Berlin, Germany belonging to the RT televised news network.

Meanwhile, a Fatah official Hatim Abd al-Qadir, who is in charge of the group’s affairs in Jerusalem, said that the Israeli government should be held responsible for the ongoing violence and closures in East Jerusalem.

On Monday evening, dozens of Palestinians were injured when Israeli forces violently dispersed Muslim worshippers who were performing the night-time Isha prayer in the streets outside of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to express their opposition to Israel’s new policies.

Jerusalem’s Arab Chamber of Commerce has also urged merchants and Muslim business people to refuse to pass through Israel’s metal detectors into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The holy compound was closed to Muslim worshipers for more than two days following the deadly shoot-out, marking the first time since 2014 that the mosque was closed to worshipers and the first time since 1967 it was closed for Friday prayers.

A Turkish government spokesperson reportedly called the closure a “crime against humanity” and “a crime committed against the freedom of religion.”
“From the point of view of human rights, it’s utterly unacceptable,” the spokesperson reportedly added.

Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area.

Palestinians have long feared that Israel has been attempting to shake up the status quo at the holy site, in the shape of routine Jewish incursions on the site and right-wing Israeli calls to demolish the mosque and replace it with a third Jewish temple.

© Copyright JFJFP 2017