Friday prayers protest looms over Al-Aqsa crackdown
JERUSALEM: Members of the Waqf (Islamic trust), in charge of running the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, called on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem to close all mosques in the neighbourhoods today and for prayers to take place in front of the gates of Al-Aqsa mosque compound in rejection of unprecedented Israeli security measures at the holy site.
Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Islamic trust and Al-Aqsa mosque affairs, said it issued a decision to all speakers of the mosques in East Jerusalem not to hold prayers at local sites but to head to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound instead.
Large solidarity actions are expected today against Israel’s installation of metal detectors at the gates of the Al-Aqsa on Sunday following a deadly shoot-out there two days before. Clashes have been ongoing near the holy site since, while religious leaders have encouraged Palestinians to refuse entrance into the mosque until the metal detectors are removed.
Hundreds of Palestinians have instead performed prayers outside the compound. Yesterday, hundreds performed Maghreb prayers on streets outside the holy compound after Israeli forces refused to allow Palestinians into the area except through gates that have been installed with metal detectors.
Al-Khatib warned Israeli authorities from going ahead with plans to install the metal detectors at all of Al-Aqsa’s gates and demanded an end to such policies that “harm world peace”.
He also noted the head and employees of the Islamic trust were following up on incidents at Al-Aqsa, and calculating the damage done to the mosque and its facilities after Israeli forces had raided the mosque last Friday and closed it for more than two days to Muslim worshippers – a move which rights groups have deemed a violation of international law and a form of “collective punishment”.
A spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Issam Musleh, also said that “we will not give up on each other under these circumstances at Al-Aqsa mosque”.
Musleh stated that Israeli policies represented violations and “assaults” on Al-Aqsa, and added that Israel was attempting to repeat what happened at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron after an Israeli gunman killed 29 worshippers in 1994. Israeli authorities subsequently divided the mosque in half, splitting it into a synagogue for Israeli settlers and a mosque for Palestinians. Ma’an
Palestinian worshippers confront Israeli police as they come to pray yesterday in the old city of Jerusalem but refuse to pass through new security measures imposed by Israel at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque.