Palestinians call for mass protests over closure of 'Bab al-Rahma'

Wakf rejects court order to keep contested site closed.

The temple mount on the Ninth of Av, July 22, 2018. (photo credit: TNS)
The temple mount on the Ninth of Av, July 22, 2018.
(photo credit: TNS)
Police are bracing for violence on Friday after Palestinian officials and activists called for Muslim worshipers to head to the Temple Mount compound to protest Israel’s intention to re-close the Golden Gate site, known as Bab al-Rahma.
Palestinians are also protesting Israel’s ban on scores of Wakf officials and east Jerusalem activists from entering the compound.
The IDF is similarly braced for violence on the Gaza border with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas of severe military retaliation for their attacks the South.
Officials from Israel and Jordan, which controls the Wakf department in east Jerusalem, were said to be holding talks to solve the newest Temple Mount crisis, which erupted when Palestinians unilaterally reopened the Golden Gate on February 22.
Earlier this week, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court issued an order to re-close the site unless the Wakf responds to the state’s request to ensure the contested site remains closed.
The Golden Gate had been originally shut down by court order in 2003 due to illegal construction work there.
Wakf officials said on Thursday that they were unaware of any understandings that had been reached between Israel and Jordan concerning the area.
One official said he heard about the purported understandings from Israeli media.
“On the ground, nothing has changed,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. “Today, several police officers entered Bab al-Rahma and took pictures of the site. This act provoked the feelings of the Muslims, especially because the police officers entered Bab al-Rahma without removing their shoes.”
In Amman, a Jordanian official said that his government was engaged in intensive diplomatic contacts with Israel and several international parties to end the crisis. The official said that Jordan has made it clear to Israel that it will not allow any change in the historical status of the Golden Gate.
Palestinian Authority Religious Affairs Minister Yousef Edais called on Palestinians to participate in the Friday prayer at the Temple Mount to express their rejection of “Israeli attempts to take control of Bab al-Rahma.”
Edais claimed that Israel was planning to turn the site into a synagogue and said this would be a “dangerous and unprecedented” development. He also instructed mosque preachers in the West Bank to dedicate their Friday sermons to voicing support for the Wakf’s rejection of the Israeli “attempt to keep Bab al-Rahma closed.”
Palestinian activists said that they were protesting not only against the Israeli intention to close the Golden Gate, but also against orders barring several Palestinians, including Wakf officials and guards, from entering the Temple Mount compound.
The activists launched an online campaign under the banner “The Friday of Breaking the Israeli Restrictions” and called on Palestinians to converge on the Temple Mount on the Muslim Sabbath to “defend Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
One activist said that the protests will continue until Israel rescinds all its “provocative and illegal measures” against Bab al-Rahma and scores of Palestinians who have been served with police orders prohibiting them from entering the Temple Mount compound. Among those who received such orders are Wakf Council chairman Sheikh Abdel Azim Salhab, Wakf Department deputy director Sheikh Najeh Bkeirat and PA Jerusalem Affairs Minister Adnan Husseini.
The mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, also issued an appeal to Palestinians to arrive at the Temple Mount on Friday to protest the Israeli measures.
The Palestinians, he said, “will continue to challenge Israeli attempts to establish new facts on the ground in the city.”
The recent Israeli measures “will not deter the Palestinians from defending and safeguarding Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he added.
The mufti warned that the Israeli measures would lead to an “explosion” in Jerusalem and called on Arabs and Muslims to assume their responsibilities towards the city and its holy sites.
Sheikh Ekrimah Sabri, a senior Palestinian Islamic cleric, said that Palestinians were prepared for all scenarios and “will not leave the Al-Aqsa Mosque to become easy prey to the occupation forces.”
“Friday will be the day for defending Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Sabri said.
Referring to the reported contacts between Israel and Jordan, he said: “The people, and not the politicians, are the ones who have the final say.”