Control of Al-Aqsa mosque 'under threat' by Israel, Jerusalem's grand mufti warns
Mufti Ekrima Sa'id Sabri said occupying Israeli forces are undermining the right of the Supreme Islamic Authority in Jerusalem and is targeting the Muslim status of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
He expressed concern that the strategic Bab Al-Rahma area east of the compound is under particular threat, where Israel prevents Muslims from praying or even being in the area.
On Sunday, Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque and arrested five women who were standing around the Bab Al-Rahma area, also known as the Golden Gate. When a mosque guard tried to interfere in their defence, he was arrested too.
The Islamic Endowment, known as Waqf in Arabic, denounced the arrest, saying it symbolises Israel’s “aims at changing the long-observed historic, religious and legal status quo at the mosque.”
Sabri said he fears that Israel is going to take advantage of the current unstable situation in the Arab world in order to implement its plans at Al-Aqsa.
"I strongly deplore these irresponsible violations and behaviours aimed at fuelling the situation inside Al-Aqsa Mosque by the occupation police,” he said.
“Their behaviours range from chasing, arresting and deporting worshippers, mosque employees and guards, under false pretexts, aimed at changing the long-standing religious, historical, and legal status of the mosque."
The Bab Al-Rahma gate has been one of the most contested gates in recent years.
It has been closed off to Palestinians with chains and locks since 2003 and has since then been used as a way for Israeli setters to enter the mosque compound.
In February, Jerusalemite Palestinians began their attempts to break off the locks on the gate and participate in prayer protests to assert their right to enter Al-Aqsa through Bab Al-Rahma.
Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem is the world's third-holiest site for Muslims, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Jewish Israelis call the area the Temple Mount and claim it was historically a site of two Jewish temples.
Jerusalem under threat
Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, and commits various abuses against Palestinian civilians, human rights groups say.
More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in constructions considered illegal under international law.
In 2017, the Trump administration recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, causing global outrage.
Palestinians have deplored the US' approach, saying the Trump administration has acted overtly favourable to Israel since the US recognised Jerusalem as the so-called capital of Israel.
At the time, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the Jerusalem escalations as an act of war.
In April, the US described East Jerusalem Palestinians as "Arab residents" or "non-Israeli citizens" in an annual global human rights report, changing from the previously used "Palestinian residents” description.
The move comes amid widespread controversy over Israel's intentions to annex parts of the West Bank.
The plans to annex approximately one third of the West Bank was greenlighted by US President Donald Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century". The plan also envisages the creation of a severely restricted Palestinian state.
The annexations have been criticised as a barrier to "lasting peace" by opposition and Palestinians are denouncing it as yet another violation of their sovereignty and human rights.
Israel could begin implementing annexations as soon as 1 July.