Palestinian Muslims enter the Golden Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 22, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a move signaling the possible end of the crisis, the Wakf Council announced on Wednesday that it will start “immediate renovation and reconstruction work” at the Golden Gate site on the Temple Mount, also known as Bab a-Rahma. The announcement was made after an emergency meeting of the Wakf Council in east Jerusalem.
The council did not say how long the renovation work at the contested site would continue.
A Wakf official told The Jerusalem Post that the announcement came following understandings reached between Israel and Jordan to solve the crisis surrounding Bab a-Rahma. Israeli and Jordanian officials have been holding intensive talks in the past few weeks in an attempt to reach understandings to end the tensions on the Temple Mount.
“The renovation work could last for weeks and months,” the official said. He said he did not know if the site would remain open for prayers during the renovation work.
Last month, Palestinians reopened the Bab a-Rahma site, which was closed by court order 16 years ago because of illegal construction work there by the Islamic Movement in Israel and Hams-affiliated activists.
The Wakf Council said in a statement after its meeting that its “fixed position” remains that the Bab a-Rahma chapel is an integral part of al-Aqsa Mosque and would therefore remain open to Muslim worshipers
According to the statement, the Wakf Council and the al-Aqsa Reconstruction Committee will be responsible for the reconstruction and renovation work at Bab a-Rahma “without any form of intervention by the occupation authorities.”
The Wakf Council expressed appreciation for the positions of Jordan’s King Abdullah II “in supporting and defending al-Aqsa Mosque/Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).” The council said that it was convinced that King Abdullah II will not hesitate to “carry out his historic and religious responsibilities to defend the safeguard al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The council also said it was convinced that the Jordanian monarch would continue his effort to rescind Israeli orders barring several Wakf officers and guards from entering the Temple Mount compound.
Referring to Tuesday’s incident, during which a police post on the Temple Mount was set on fire, the Wakf Council claimed that the alleged arson was “fabricated.” The council, however, did not provide further details.
The police said that Palestinians hurled a firebomb at the point. At least two Palestinian eyewitnesses claimed that children playing with fireworks were responsible for the fire.
Two east Jerusalem minors who were arrested in connection with the incident were released on bail and placed under house arrest.
The Wakf Council condemned the police for “assaulting” its officials and guards and closing the entrances to the Temple Mount after the incident. Police reopened the Temple Mount on Wednesday morning.
“The Wakf Council condemns in the strongest terms this premeditated aggression, which constitutes a clear violation of the sanctity of al-Aqsa Mosque and provokes the feelings of Muslims,” the council said. It said that the Muslims alone were responsible for the entire compound and its facilities, including those above and under the ground.
Meanwhile, Palestinian activists in east Jerusalem on Wednesday again called on Palestinians to head to the Temple Mount on Friday to protest against Israeli “schemes to establish new facts on the ground” at the site.
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