The Palestinians have strongly rejected a ruling by an Israeli Magistrate Court that will permit Jews to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex. The decision negates a longstanding agreement whereby Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa while Jews perform their religious rituals at the nearby Western Wall.
The ruling was a consequence of an Israeli settler Rabbi Aryeh Lippo petitioning the court to lift a temporary ban on him that prevented him from entering Al-Aqsa. Initially, Israeli police had imposed the order after he performed prayers at the compound.
The move has triggered concerns among the Palestinians that it may lead to a Jewish takeover of the third-holiest site in Islam. Although, the verdict issued by Israel’s lowest judicial body is more of an endorsement than a legally binding ruling, it has fueled Palestinian’s long held fears of Jewish encroachment over Jerusalem’s holiest site.
Israeli court endorsed “criminal act”
Palestinians have unanimously denounced that the court’s decision to endorse Jewish worshippers praying in Al-Aqsa, which they deem to be a “criminal act”. Palestinians see increasing visits by Jews to the site as a provocation. They have accused Israel of systematically trying to undermine earlier agreements to expand its own control over the holy site.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Shtayyeh called on the US to preserve the status-quo of the compound. Shtayyeh also urged the Arab nations to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.
Shtayyeh said, “We warn against Israel’s attempts to impose a new reality at the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Jordan, the officially recognized keeper of Al-Aqsa, called the decision “a serious violation of the historical and legal status of Al-Aqsa Mosque”. The country’s role as the keeper of the Muslim holy site was recognized in a 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.
Legal expert on Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa say that from a legal standpoint, the decision is null. The Israeli judicial system does not have any legal jurisdiction to rule over the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to change the status quo.
In recent years, intermittent bloody confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces have taken place as more and more Jews have been entering the Al-Aqsa compound. Jews consider the Muslim holy site as their praying place, the Temple Mount.
Israel’s illegal 1980 East Jerusalem annexation
The area is in Jerusalem’s walled Old City and part of the territory Israel captured in a 1967 Middle East war. Israel moved to annex the occupied East Jerusalem in 1980. The international community has never recognized the move.
Jordan’s Council of Endowments – Awqaf – manages the Islamic edifices in the Al-Aqsa compound. The council called the move a “flagrant violation of the Islamic and sanctity of the mosque and a clear provocation to the feelings of Muslims around the world”.
“Resistance is ready”
In a statement, Gaza Strip’s governing group Hamas said that the move is a “blatant aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and a clear declaration of a war that goes beyond political rights to an aggression against religion and sanctities”.
The group said that the “resistance is ready and prepared to repel aggression and defend rights”.
The mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said that the move could trigger a possible escalation of hostilities.
Mufti Hussein said, “We appeal to the Arabs and Muslims to save Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque from the invasive decisions of the occupation on Al-Aqsa Mosque, and we warn everyone against the outbreak of a religious war.”