30 Oct 2014

Jerusalem mosque closure is ‘declaration of war’

Amid growing tension in east Jerusalem, PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the closure of the revered al-Aqsa mosque. Meanwhile, Egypt’s demolition programme in the border town of Rafah continues.

Palestinians during clashes with Israeli police in the Abu Tor neighbourhood of east Jerusalem (Reuters)

The decision by Israeli authorities to close down the al-Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem is a “declaration of war”, according to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The move is in response to tension in the city after the shooting dead of a Palestinian by Israeli police. It is the first full closure of the mosque and the surrounding area for 14 years.

The mosque, which is among the holiest sites in Islam, is situated in the Temple Mount area of the Israeli capital, not far from the Western Wall, a site revered by Jews.

The motehr of Moataz Hejazi holds up a picture of him (Reuters)

The mother of Moataz Hejazi holds up a picture of him (Reuters)

Attempted assassination

Palestinian Moataz Hejazi, 32, was killed in the Abu Tor neighbourhood of Jerusalem by police after the attempted assassination of Israeli religious activist Yehud Glick.

Mr Glick was attacked on Wednesday as he left a conference promoting a campaign to permit Jews to pray at the Temple Mount – which is known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary.

After the Glick attack, Jewish far-right groups urged supporters to march on al-Aqsa on Thursday morning.

The Temple Mount was captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 six-day war.

Buffer zone

As Israeli police moved in heavy numbers into the Silwan neighbourhood of Jerusalem adjacent to the old city, the Egyptian army’s demolition of buildings in Rafah, in northern Sinai, continued.

Yesterday Egypt began clearing residents from the town, on the Egypt-Gaza border, in response to the killing by Islamic militants of at least 31 soldiers in the Sinai peninsula town of Sheikh Zuwaid.

Large explosions could be seen in Rafah as Egypt accelerated its plan to create a 500-metre deep buffer zone by clearing houses and trees, as well as destroying tunnels it says are used to smuggle arms from Gaza to Sinai militants.

General Abdel Fattah Harhour, governor of the north Sinai region, has said each family displaced by the demolition programme will receive 900 Egyptian pounds – just under £80 – to cover three months’ rent elsewhere.

But Rafah resident Hammam Alagha wrote on his Facebook page on Monday that his family had been given no more than eight hours to evacuate their home before it was blown up.

A press office spokesman for the Egyptian embassy in London told Channel 4 News: “Most people know (the demolition) is an urgent measure.

“I can call it a national duty for the people in this area to help secure national security.”

Translation: My home is on an area of 470 square metres – with one villa on 1000 square metres. The army wants me out of my home so they can demolish it and make me a refugee and give me 300 pounds to rent a flat of 60 square metres.