Hamas warned Monday that the Israeli closure of the Mugrabi Bridge is tantamount
to a “declaration of war” on Muslim holy sites.
“This is a serious step
that shows the Zionist scheme of aggression against al-Aksa mosque,” said Hamas
spokesman Fawzi Barhum in an interview with AFP. “This is a violent act that
amounts to a declaration of religious war on the Muslim holy places in
Mugrabi Bridge closed due to safety concerns
The Palestinian Authority also condemned the closure of the
Mugrabi Bridge and said that Israel does not have any jurisdiction over Muslim
holy sites in Jerusalem.
PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said that the
decision to close the bridge was designed to scuttle international efforts to
revive the peace process. He was referring to renewed attempts by
representatives of the Quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – to launch direct
talks between Israel and the PA.
“The closure of the Mugrabi Bridge is is
in the context of [Israel’s] religious war against our holy sites,” Hamas said
in a statement.
The decision is also part of Israel's effort to
completely Judaize Jerusalem by deporting residents and revoking their ID cards,
demolishing their houses and confiscating their lands, Hamas
Sheikh Abdel Azim Salhab, chairman of the Islamic Wakf
Department in Jerusalem, rejected the Israeli move and warned against an
“explosion” if the bridge is demolished.
“Demolishing the bridge would be
seen as an assault on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he cautioned. “Israel had already
assaulted the rights of the Muslims by confiscating the keys to the Mugrabi
Gate, which is one of the main gates to the mosque.”
closed the Mugrabi Bridge on Sunday for safety reasons, three days before the
municipality deadline to close the ramp leading from the Western Wall plaza to
the Temple Mount. The ramp was closed due to a decision by the Western Wall
Heritage Foundation, which oversees the Western Wall plaza.
comments followed remarks made by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat last
week, when he said that the Israeli move “shows their determination to judaize
Jerusalem and to take over the city’s Muslim holy places.”
speaker Reuven Rivlin on Monday met with Andreas Michaelis, the German
ambassador to Israel, and expressed Israel’s commitment to re-opening the
“Four days after the Six Day War we decided to allow
Muslims to remain in control over the Temple Mount, even though this drew the
ire of many Jews and was viewed as an abandonment of the holy site to Muslims,”
Rivlin said. “The Mugrabi Bridge was built with unanimous consent. At this point
in time the bridge is dangerous and there is a need to build a new
Michaelis said that the German government supports two-sided
negotiations with the Muslim Waqf to come to a solution for a new bridge, and
that replacing the bridge should be undertaken with “restraint and
The Jerusalem municipality originally set November 28 as the
deadline to destroy the bridge, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intervened
to stop the demolition, worried about triggering riots across the Arab world. In
the most recent letter, sent last week, the municipality insisted the bridge
must be closed to the public until a new bridge is built.
agree that the bridge is indeed dangerous to use, and that closing it is not a
Still, due to the site’s extreme sensitivity, the
ramifications of the closure, which is the only entrance for non-Muslims who
want to visit the Dome of the Rock, have drawn strong reactions.
Danon (Likud) slammed the decision to close the Mugrabi Bridge without finding
another solution for non-Muslims.
“It’s an absolute shame that the Temple
Mount is in our hands and that Jews can’t go up there to pray,” Danon told The
Jerusalem Post. Danon said he insisted in a conversation with Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu that the Chain Gate, another entrance to the Temple Mount,
must be immediately opened to non-Muslims.
“We can’t even let one day
pass without letting Jews on the Temple Mount. If they don’t do the renovations
immediately, we need at least to allow this for people. Every day is
important,” he added.
In 2007, construction began on the bridge to
replace it, a move that sparked widespread Muslim rioting in Jordan and
Jerusalem and calls for a third intifada. During the period when construction
was ongoing, the Chain Gate was opened to Jewish worshippers and tourists to
enter the Temple Mount.
Danon said he was appealing to the Interior
Committee to address the issue. He said that he believed the Chain Gate would be
opened to non-Muslims in a matter of days. Any change in entrances to the Temple
Mount are carried out in coordination with the Muslim Waqf.
earthen ramp leading to the Mugrabi Gate collapsed during a snowstorm in 2004,
and the wooden temporary bridge was built in its stead, meant to serve for a few
months at most until a permanent bridge was built.
The issue of a
replacement bridge and coordination with Muslim authorities was set to be
discussed by the High Court of Justice in June, but the case was pushed off
until December 28.
Another case involving the Western Wall plaza and the
bridge will be heard by the Jerusalem District Court in January.