Israel Reopens Al-Aqsa Mosque


Israel has decided to reopen Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque hours after ordering its closure, police told AFP news agency.

 The mosque, in the Al-Aqsa complex which contains sites holy to Muslims and Jews, was shut by Israel following the shooting of a Jewish activist.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had condemned the closure as a “declaration of war”.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP: “It was decided to restore (the compound) to normal… effective immediately.”

She said entry for Muslim men would be restricted to those aged over 50 because of fears of unrest at Friday midday prayers.

There would be no restrictions on Muslim women, she said. Non-Muslims are routinely not allowed access on Fridays.

Speaking hours after the closure, Mr Abbas said: “This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation.

“We hold the Israeli government responsible for this dangerous escalation in Jerusalem that has reached its peak through the closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque this morning.

“This decision is a dangerous act and a blatant challenge that will lead to more tension and instability and will create a negative and dangerous atmosphere.

“The state of Palestine will take all legal measures to hold Israel accountable and to stop these ongoing attacks.”

After Mr Abbas’ comments, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a hike in police numbers.

He said: “I have ordered a significant increase in forces as well as in means (available to them) so we can both ensure security in Jerusalem and also maintain the status quo in the holy places.”

Meanwhile, Sweden has become the first Western member of the European Union to recognise the state of Palestine.

The new left-leaning government’s move reflects growing international impatience with Israel’s nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said: “There is a territory, a people and government.”

Author: Liban Farah

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