Al-Aqsa of­fi­cials defy se­cu­rity rules as mosque re­opens

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

BETH­LE­HEM: As Is­raeli of­fi­cials moved to “grad­u­ally re­open” the Al-Aqsa Mosque com­pound in oc­cu­pied East Jerusalem for prayers yes­ter­day af­ter three days of clo­sure, Is­lamic En­dow­ment (Waqf) of­fi­cials who run the holy site re­fused to pass through new metal de­tec­tors in­stalled at the com­pound’s en­trances – al­though Is­raeli po­lice said at least 200 peo­ple had en­tered.

The at­tempt to re­open the com­pound was or­dered by Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, af­ter it had been closed fol­low­ing a shoot­ing at­tack in­side the com­pound that left two Is­raeli bor­der po­lice­men and three Pales­tinian as­sailants dead on Fri­day.

Af­ter dis­cus­sions with “top se­cu­rity lead­er­ship”, Ne­tanyahu an­nounced ad­di­tional se­cu­rity mea­sures at the holy site, in­clud­ing the metal de­tec­tors and se­cu­rity cam­eras out­side the com­pound.

Ne­tanyahu lauded the mea­sures as giv­ing Is­rael “al­most com­plete con­trol over what goes on there”.

Is­raeli news daily Haaretz cited Is­raeli po­lice sources as say­ing that at first Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties planned to open only two of the com­pound’s nine gates to Mus­lims, and that only Pales­tinian res­i­dents of Jerusalem would be al­lowed to en­ter.

Later, for­eign tourists and Jewish vis­i­tors would also be al­lowed at the site.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, direc­tor of Al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani voiced his dis­ap­proval of the mea­sures on the Voice of Pales­tine ra­dio sta­tion, say­ing “it is a dan­ger­ous and un­prece­dented move to im­pose con­trol over Al-Aqsa mosque”. When Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties tried to re­open the mosque at 12.30pm be­fore af­ter­noon prayers, Waqf of­fi­cials re­fused to pass through the metal de­tec­tors.

Haaretz re­ported the Waqf also re­fused to un­lock the gates as a fur­ther act of protest.

How­ever, Is­raeli po­lice spokesper­son Micky Rosen­feld noted that 200 peo­ple had en­tered the com­pound as of 1.15pm.

He said ex­tra po­lice units were de­ployed in the area “to pre­vent any in­ci­dents” and “po­lice will re­spond to any in­ci­dent if nec­es­sary”.

As of yes­ter­day morn­ing, Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties had con­tin­ued to ban the “ad­han”, or Mus­lim call to prayer, in the mosque and pre­vented wor­ship­pers from en­ter­ing the mosque, forc­ing them to per­form dawn prayers in the street.

The en­tirety of the Old City has been shut down to Pales­tini­ans who don’t re­side there since Fri­day, while Is­raelis and tourists have been al­lowed to en­ter undis­turbed, Haaretz re­ported. Ma’an

PIC­TURE: AP

Is­raeli po­lice stand guard as Mus­lim men pray out­side the Al- Aqsa Mosque com­pound in Jerusalem yes­ter­day.

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