Al-Azhar decries Israeli assaults in Al-Aqsa Mosque


Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Islamic world, has condemned Israeli assaults on worshippers in East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Cairo-based institution described the Israeli assaults as a “flagrant violation of the sanctity of holy sites”.

The assaults are “a continuation of repressive measures against Jerusalem, its people and holy sites, which provoke the sentiments of Muslims around the world,” it said.

It reiterated the right of the Palestinians to “dignity, freedom and sovereignty on their land and holy sites”, going on to call on the international community to pressure Israel to respect UN resolutions.

On Wednesday, Israeli police reopened Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, one day after it closed the site following an alleged arson attack on a nearby police station.

The closure of the flashpoint sites had triggered clashes with angry Palestinians, during which at least 16 people were injured.
Israeli police said its forces had arrested 10 Palestinians, including two minors, for allegedly setting the fire.

Tension has mounted in Jerusalem since last month, when Israeli police briefly sealed the Al-Aqsa compound’s Al-Rahma Gate, located adjacent to the eastern wall of the Old City, sparking angry Palestinian demonstrations.

In the weeks since, the Israeli authorities have banned scores of Palestinians — including religious officials — from entering the Al-Aqsa, which for Muslims represents the world’s third holiest site.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.

* Writing by Ali Abo Rezeg