The Palestinian Authority denounced on Monday an Israeli decision to expand the Jewish prayer section of the Western Wall to accommodate non-Orthodox and mixed gender services, as a further attempt to change the status quo at the Temple Mount.

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Sunday’s cabinet decision hailed as an historic landmark for Jewish pluralism, was intended to enable embattled prayer group, Women of the Wall, to move its services away from the Orthodox-controlled prayer section, where rabbis have objected to seeing women read from the Torah.

The Palestinian Minister for Wakf and Religious Affairs, Sheikh Yusef Edais, said he opposed the decision to “allocate a mixed prayer section for Jewish men and women” at the Western Wall, which he referred to by its Islamic name, al-Buraq.

Edais said the expanded prayer plaza was an inseparable part of al-Aksa Mosque, and that the yard adjacent to the Western Wall was Muslim- owned property.

Israel’s “dangerous schemes against Jerusalem, including ongoing intervention in the affairs of the Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount), massive excavations beneath al-Aksa Mosque under the pretext of searching for ostensible monuments and intensive settlement plans in the city are part of an attempt to change the status quo at the Haram Al-Sharif,” Edais said.

Edais further accused Israel of pursuing its effort to ‘Judaize” Jerusalem and isolate it from surrounding Arab communities.

“Al Aqsa Mosque is part of the faith of the Muslims and belongs only to Muslims,” Edais said. “This includes all its structures, yards, walls and gates. The Jews have no connection to it whatsoever. This offensive against Jerusalem is aimed at consolidating the occupation in it and turning it into a Jewish city by falsifying its history and displacing its original residents.”

Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, also condemned the cabinet decision.

In a statement on Monday, Hussein said that the prayer space adjacent to the Western Wall is “the property of the Islamic Waqf, taken by the Israeli occupation in 1967.”

He called the decision “brutal attack on the Waqf and additional evidence of the Israeli aggression against Muslim holy places, in an attempt to Judaize Jerusalem.”
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