Israel bans top Palestinian Waqf officials from Al Aqsa | News

Police in Israel have extended bans on top Palestinian officials who oversee Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa compound from entering the holy site, in a move analysts warned could further escalate tensions.

The decision on Sunday came weeks after the Islamic Waqf Council, a religious body appointed by Jordan to oversee the Al Aqsa compound, defied a 16-year Israeli ban on the Bab al-Rahma building within the site and reopened it to Muslim worshippers.

Following the council’s decision on February 14, its head Sheikh Abdel Azeem Salhab and his deputy, Sheikh Najeh Bkerat, were briefly detained and hit with a one-week ban. Israeli police extended the bans on Sunday by 40 days for Salhab and four months for Bkerat, a spokesman for the Waqf Council told Anadolu news agency.

Salhab told local media that police informed him the ban was due to his role in opening Bab al-Rahma.

Israeli authorities had shut down Bab al-Rahma in 2003, claiming the site was being used by members of the outlawed Islamic Movement in Israel Northern Branch for political activities, an allegation the Waqf Council denies.

Since its reopening, some 100 Palestinian activists and religious figures have been detained “in an effort to put an end to Palestinian defiance of Israeli orders”, according to Wafa, a Palestinian news agency

Among them were Arafat Naib, a guard at the Al Aqsa compound, who was banned from entering the site for six months, and Nasser Qous, a Fatah party official in Jerusalem, who was also barred for 40 days.

Palestinians reopen Al-Aqsa gate locked by Israel 16 years ago


Jordan’s Waqf ministry condemned the bans on Sunday, describing them as “intimidation of the [Waqf] Council members” and a “direct targeting of the Hashemite [Jordanian] guardianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites”.

Jordan oversees the Al Aqsa compound via the Waqf Council according to a 1967 status quo agreement with Israel.

The deal prohibits non-Muslim worship at Al Aqsa, but many Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to undermine it. 

Following his ban, Salhab told Arab48 news website that with the expulsion of scholars and guards from the site, Israel’s right-wing government is trying to “ignite a religious war” as it continues to “facilitate Israeli extremists’ intrusions” into the compound.

“The Al Aqsa mosque is the property of Muslims alone, and no other religion has the right to it. It seems that Israel is trying in vain to change the status quo in the Al Aqsa mosque, and this is what we will not allow,” Salhab said.

With Bab al-Rahma remaining open for prayers, religious Zionists and Israeli Knesset members have called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prohibit Palestinian access to the building.

Ofer Zalzberg, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, described the bans against the top officials as “unprecedented”.

“We’ve seen bans on Waqf guards, but we haven’t seen bans on members of the Waqf Council,” Zalzberg told Al Jazeera.

“They reflect a significant escalation in relations between Israel and the Waqf and deeper than that, between Israel and Jordan. Netanyahu is trying to signal that [Israel] will not be silent when the Waqf is challenging Israeli policy at the holy site but at the same time Netanyahu is avoiding sending in the police in order to force closure of Bab al-Rahma.”

The opening of Bab al-Rahma has angered many religious Zionists, including activists of the Temple Movement, who advocate the building of a Jewish temple over the Al Aqsa compound.

Once a fringe group, the group now enjoys the support of mainstream Israeli political and religious organisations.

Zalzberg said he expected a significant backlash from religious Zionists, as Israel was heading towards a general election on April 9.

The Temple Movement was working on an “election plan” regarding the issue, he said, adding: “They are more likely to ask specific demands regarding Israeli policies towards the site in order to change long standing policy.”

Additional reporting by Mersiha Gadzo.


more recommended stories

  • Algerians rally for fourth consecutive week against ailing leader | News

    Tens of thousands of Algerians have.

  • What can we expect from Thailand’s March 24 vote? | Asia

    The people of northeast Thailand have.

  • US to see unprecedented spring flooding in coming weeks | News

    The stage is set for unprecedented.

  • Thailand votes: Young voters prepare for Sunday’s election | Thailand News

    Almost 52 million eligible voters in.

  • Pressure mounts as May heads to final EU summit before Brexit | Brexit

    London, United Kingdom – On Thursday, the.

  • Karadzic sentence increased to life for Bosnia genocide: UN | Former Yugoslavia News

    United Nations judges have ordered former.

  • Radovan Karadzic faces final verdict in war crimes case | Former Yugoslavia News

    United Nations appeals judges on Wednesday.

  • ‘Major humanitarian emergency’ after cyclone batters SE Africa | Mozambique News

    Cyclone winds and floods that swept.

  • India-Pakistan cricket row over army caps and politics in sport | Sport

    The controversy around the Indian cricket.

  • Alleged NZ mosque gunman ‘rational’, lawyer says after he’s fired | New Zealand News

    The Australian man accused of shooting.

  • Philippines officially out of the International Criminal Court | News

    The Philippines has officially withdrawn from the.

  • More than 100 detained in Nicaragua’s anti-government protests | Daniel Ortega News

    Managua, Nicaragua – Police have detained.

  • New Zealand mosque attacks: Who were the victims? | News

    They were teachers, engineers and accountants..

  • Australian senator egged after racist comments on New Zealand | New Zealand News

    A far-right Australian senator had to.

  • New Zealand terrorist attack suspect grins in court | News

    The Australian suspect arrested after dozens.

  • New Zealand mosque attacks: What we know so far | New Zealand News

    Two mosques in the city of.

  • Australia Aboriginals win right to sue for colonial land loss | News

    Sydney, Australia – The High Court.

  • ‘Arms are for hugs’: US students march to end gun violence | News

    Washington, DC – Hundreds of students have.

  • Colombia: March in favour of FARC peace accord | Colombia News

    Colombians have rallied in defence of.

  • Brexit vote: UK parliament rejects ‘no-deal’ option | UK News

    London, England – With just over.

  • Hamid Karzai: Taliban and the Afghan government should talk | Afghanistan News

    US officials and Taliban representatives have.

  • US Senate to vote on Saudi-Yemen war resolution | USA News

    The US Senate will vote on.

  • Confederate statue removed in North Carolina city | News

    A North Carolina city removed a.

  • Confederate statue removed in North Carolina city | News

    A North Carolina city removed a.

  • Mahathir says government considering future of Malaysia Airlines | Malaysia News

    The Malaysian government is considering whether.

  • DRC’s Bemba seeks $77m in compensation from ICC | DR Congo News

    Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice president and.

  • India-Pakistan railway: Samjhauta Express train service restored | Pakistan News

    The Samjhauta Express also called the.

  • Serb Chetnik gathering in Bosnia’s Visegrad raises alarm | News

    A gathering of supporters of the.

  • Investigators at Ethiopian Airlines crash site look for answers | Ethiopia

    An Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet traveling.

  • Rival rallies held in Caracas as Venezuela crisis intensifies | News

    Thousands of people have once again.

  • Is enough being done to stop misinformation online? | Social media

    “Fake news” is a common cry.

  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: ‘Patriarchy is bad for everybody’ | United Nations

    While the world is electing more.