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Security tight, holy site shut after Jerusalem attack

By AFP - Jul 16,2017 - Last updated at Jul 16,2017

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israeli occupation forces locked down parts of Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday and Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque holy site closed after the killing of three Arab-Israeli nationals.

Israeli occupation 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.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated it will stay closed until at least Sunday. 

Netanyahu also spoke of increasing security at entrances to the site when it reopens — likely to be a controversial move.

On Saturday, 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.

“They want to punish the Arab Jerusalem citizens.”


 City for all 


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 presence of occupation forces.

A group of tourists from Poland said they were concerned when they heard about Friday’s shooting but wanted to continue their visit.

They were on their way to do some shopping in the Old City and visit the nearby Garden of Gethsemane, where Christians believe Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion.

“It stressed me a little,” said Ewa, who did not want to give her last name or age.

At Lions Gate near the site of the attack, the security men guarded the entrance and restricted access, checking IDs. 

Israeli authorities also detained Jerusalem’s top Muslim cleric, grand mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, as crowds gathered at the gates of the Old City, his son said.

Hussein, who had criticised 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.






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