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Jordan rejects new Israeli ‘escalation’ barring awqaf officials from Aqsa

By JT - Mar 03,2019 - Last updated at Mar 03,2019

Palestinian Muslims attend Friday prayers outside the Bab Al Rahma in Al Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday (Reuters photo)

AMMAN — The Awqaf Ministry on Sunday expressed its rejection of Israel’s decision to bar top officials of the Jerusalem Awqaf Department from Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif, describing it as “new escalation”.

Israel on Sunday barred Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, head of the Jerusalem Awqaf Council, from accessing Al Aqsa Mosque complex for 40 days and Najih Bkirat, the deputy director general of the Jerusalem Awqaf Department, for four months, the Jordan News Agency, Petra reported.

Occupation forces also decided to detain a number of officials from the awqaf, including Mahdi Abdul Haddi, and raided the residence of another, Hatim Abdul Qader, according to Petra.

Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Abdul Nasser Abul Bassal described the Israeli measures as “a new escalation aimed at impeding the work of the Jerusalem Awqaf and intimidating the members of the council, which the Jordanian Cabinet has recently restructured”.

Abul Bassal added that taking such arbitrary measures by Israeli authorities constitute a systematic targeting of Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif, the administration and members of the council, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Using the barring of awqaf officials as a tool to pressure the council in order to interfere in Al Aqsa Mosque affairs is “unacceptable”, the minister added, stressing that such acts “reinforce our determination that Bab Al Rahma is an indivisible and integral part of Al Aqsa Mosque and a non-negotiable issue”.  

The Lower House’s Palestine Committee also condemned the decision, noting that it is a direct violation of the Hashemite Custodianship over Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. 

Salhab and Bkirat were arrested by Israeli forces last month after the former reopened the gate leading into Bab Al Rahma (Gate of Mercy), in Al Aqsa Mosque complex, which has been sealed by Israel since 2003, and hundreds of Muslims went inside to pray for the first time in years, according to Reuters.

Last week, Abul Bassal instructed the Jerusalem Awqaf Department to study the best possible means of utilising the Bab Al Rahma building with the aim of keeping it permanently open.

The Jerusalem Awqaf Department, which is affiliated with Jordan’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, has the sole authority to manage the affairs of Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif.

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