Waqf defies Israeli court order to close Al-Aqsa Mosque gate

Al-Aqsa

Jerusalem. The Islamic authority that oversees Muslim holy sites in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem Al-Quds has dismissed an Israeli court order to shutter Bab al-Rahma (Gate of Mercy or Golden Gate) in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, with Palestinians calling for mass protests against the ruling.

Sheikh Abdel Azeem Salhab, head of the Islamic Waqf (Endowment) organization, stressed on Tuesday that the court’s decision does not apply to the al-Aqsa Mosque.

“It is our right, religious and contractual to access the Golden Gate and keep this door open for Muslims to pray,” he said in a statement issued after an emergency meeting of the organization seated in Jordan, which is the custodian of the holy sites in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

“We will not respond to courts of the occupation regarding the issue of Bab al-Rahma and Al-Aqsa Mosque and it [does not have authority over the matter],” he added.

Israel closed Bab al-Rahma in 2003, alleging that it had turned into a place for political activities against the Tel Aviv regime.

For the first time in 16 years, the Islamic Waqf defied Israel’s ban and re-opened the gates to Palestinian worshipers last month.

Angered by the move, Israel has been engaged in an arrest campaign against the Palestinians joining prayers in the premises of Bab al-Rahma.

Last month, Israeli authorities arrested 229 Palestinians and banned 133 others, among them was Salhab, from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque, according to a report by the al-Quds-based Wadi Hilweh Information Center.

On Monday, an Israeli court said it would order the closure of Bab al-Rahma unless the Islamic Waqf responds within a week to a request to shut the area.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Salhab demanded that Israel permit the Waqf to renovate Baba al-Rahma and revoke orders banning dozens of the organization’s officials, guards and worshipers from the site.

Palestinians have long been wary of Israeli attempts to change the status quo of al-Aqsa Mosque, which is Islam’s third holiest site and where only Muslim prayers are allowed under the status quo reaffirmed in 1967 between Israel and Jordan.

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