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Israel restricts access to Aqsa

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Israeli police imposed restrictions on Palestinian worshipers entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Monday, one day after three Palestinians were banned from the compound for periods of up to 45 days.

Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli police briefly closed most of the compound’s entrances on Monday, leaving only the Chain, Council and Hatta gates open, and prevented all worshipers under the age of 30 from entering the compound.

They later re-opened all entrances except for the Iron Gate.

A spokesperson for the Islamic endowment, or Waqf, said that Israeli police held worshipers’ ID cards as they entered the compound, using their personal details as leverage to ensure that Israeli restrictions were respected.

Witnesses said that a group of rightist Israelis raided the compound on Monday, entering the Moroccans Gate and leaving from the Chain Gate.

Muslim worshipers reportedly reacted to the raid by chanting: “Allahu Akbar.”

The third holiest site in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained an agreement with the Islamic endowment that controls the Al-Aqsa compound not to allow non-Muslim prayer in the area. Jewish prayer is allowed at the neighboring Western Wall.

However, Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to Al-Aqsa, leading to anger among Muslim worshipers.

Since mid-2014 Israeli authorities have regularly imposed restrictions on Muslims entering the compound, and on several occasions entirely closed the compound, feeding tensions in East Jerusalem.

On Sunday, Israeli police banned three Palestinians — an Al-Aqsa mosque guard, a woman and a youth — from entering the compound for periods between 15 and 45 days.

Sources told Ma’an that Israeli police summoned Fadi al-Rajabi, a compound guard, to the al-Qishla police station in Jerusalem’s Old City and gave him an order banning him from entering the holy site for 15 days.

Al-Rajabi said that the Israeli authorities had previously banned him from entering the mosque for a year and a half.

The Israeli magistrate court separately banned Rawan Abu Hadwan from the mosque for 45 days and Amr Abu Arafa for 30 days. Abu Arafa had also been sentenced to house arrest until Apr. 11. MAAN NEWS


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