Tight se­cu­rity in Jerusalem as holy site closed af­ter at­tack

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Se­cu­rity forces locked down parts of Jerusalem’s Old City yes­ter­day and an ul­tra-sen­si­tive holy site re­mained closed af­ter an at­tack that killed two po­lice of­fi­cers and height­ened Is­raeli-Pales­tinian ten­sions. Three Arab Is­raelis opened fire on Is­raeli po­lice Fri­day in the Old City be­fore flee­ing to the nearby Haram Al-Sharif, where they were shot dead by po­lice. Is­raeli author­i­ties said they had come from the flash­point holy site, which in­cludes the AlAqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, to com­mit the at­tack.

The author­i­ties took the highly un­usual de­ci­sion to close the Al-Aqsa mosque com­pound for Fri­day prayers, lead­ing to anger from Mus­lims and Jor­dan, the holy site’s cus­to­dian. Wael Ara­biyat, Jor­dan’s Is­lamic af­fairs min­is­ter, warned that keep­ing Al-Aqsa mosque closed is “dan­ger­ous” and “un­prece­dented”, a day af­ter Am­man on Fri­day called for its im­me­di­ate re­open­ing. Hun­dreds of Jor­da­ni­ans, re­spond­ing to a Mus­lim Brother­hood call, demon­strated in Am­man af­ter mid­day prayers yes­ter­day, call­ing for the “lib­er­a­tion of Al-Aqsa”.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has in­di­cated the site will stay closed un­til at least to­day while se­cu­rity was as­sessed, and re­jected Jor­dan’s crit­i­cism. “In­stead of de­nounc­ing the ter­ror­ist at­tack, Jor­dan chose to at­tack Is­rael,” Ne­tanyahu was quoted as say­ing by of­fi­cials, and called for re­straint. Ne­tanyahu also spoke of in­creas­ing se­cu­rity at en­trances to the site when it re­opens likely to be a con­tro­ver­sial move.

Yes­ter­day, ac­cess was re­stricted through Da­m­as­cus Gate, the main en­trance used by Pales­tini­ans into Jerusalem’s Old City, and only res­i­dents with iden­ti­fi­ca­tion were al­lowed to pass. “This is not se­cu­rity. This is pun­ish­ment,” said Bader Jwei­han, 53, an ac­coun­tant who was de­nied en­try.

Musa Ab­del­me­nam Qus­sam, 73 and with poor eye­sight, was helped by a grand­son as he walked with a cane and sought to en­ter. But the owner of a book whole­sale shop in the Old City was also turned away. “This mosque is not only for Mus­lims. Tourists come,” he said, adding that he usu­ally prays at Al-Aqsa ev­ery day. “This city is for all the world. It must be open.” Jaffa Gate, heav­ily used by tourists and near the Old City’s Jew­ish Quar­ter, was open but with a heavy po­lice pres­ence.

A group of tourists from Poland said they were con­cerned when they heard about Fri­day’s shoot­ing but wanted to con­tinue their visit. They planned to shop in the Old City and visit the nearby Gar­den of Geth­se­mane, where Chris­tians be­lieve Je­sus (PBUH) prayed the night be­fore his cru­ci­fix­ion. “It stressed me a lit­tle,” said Ewa, who did not want to give her last name. At Lions Gate near the site of the at­tack, po­lice guarded the en­trance and re­stricted ac­cess, check­ing IDs.

The at­tack and af­ter­math was one of the most se­ri­ous in­ci­dents in Jerusalem in re­cent years. Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas and Ne­tanyahu spoke by phone on Fri­day as ten­sions rose. Is­raeli author­i­ties also de­tained Jerusalem’s top Mus­lim cleric, grand mufti Muham­mad Ah­mad Hus­sein, as crowds gath­ered at the gates of the Old City af­ter the at­tack, his son said. Hus­sein, who had crit­i­cized the clo­sure of Al-Aqsa, was re­leased later Fri­day af­ter be­ing ques­tioned, ac­cord­ing to an­other of his sons.

With Al-Aqsa closed, crowds gath­ered at Old City gates and held Fri­day prayers there in­stead. The Pales­tinian direc­tor of the Waqf (re­li­gious prop­erty) coun­cil, Ab­del Azim Sal­hab, said the clo­sure of the mosque com­pound was the “worst ag­gres­sion since 1967” - a ref­er­ence to the start of Is­rael’s oc­cu­pa­tion of east Jerusalem which it later an­nexed. The Haram alSharif/Tem­ple Mount is cen­tral to the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, with Pales­tini­ans fear­ing Is­rael may one day seek to as­sert fur­ther con­trol over it. — AFP


HONOLULU: The charred ex­te­rior of the Marco Polo Build­ing is pic­tured af­ter a fire broke out on the up­per floors on Fri­day.


AM­MAN: Protestors chant slo­gans in the Jor­da­nian cap­i­tal yes­ter­day dur­ing a demon­stra­tion against the clo­sure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque com­pound in Jerusalem.

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