Despite protests, Israeli works near Aqsa Mosque continue
Despite a storm of Arab-Muslim protests against Israel's construction project at the Mugrabi Gate, Israel on Wednesday continued working under heavy police guard. The Israel Antiquities Authority claims that the project, which is expected to take months, will strengthen a ramp leading to Dung Gate and provide more safety for visitors.
The Waqf religious trust, however, states that the construction plan endangers the foundations of the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound. Additionally, initial excavations have already drawn condemnation from across the Arab world.
Micky Rosenfeld, police spokesman, said that the work will continue and 2000 police officers have already been deployed around the compound and in the Old City. Access to the compound was restricted. Only Muslim men over age 45 with Israeli identity cards and Muslim women are allowed to enter the compound. Jewish visitors, foreign tourists, and Muslim men under age 45 are banned from entering.
Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, head of the Islamic Movement Northern Branch, was questioned Wednesday morning for attempting to reach the Mugrabi Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, despite a police ban on the excavation site.
Israel's Army Radio reported that an additional six individuals who accompanied Salah were also detained.
Salah and Ikrima Sabri, head of the Jerusalem Supreme Muslim Council, called on all Muslims in Israel to flock to the Aqsa Mosque in order to try and prevent Israel from, what they believe is, destroying the Mugrabi Gate.
On Wednesday, Damascus condemned the Israeli construction project. A Syrian Foreign Ministry official said that, "Syria strongly condemns these violations, and considers them a blatant affront to Muslim waqfs and the feelings of Muslims worldwide."
Meanwhile, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, also called on Islamic nations to retaliate against Israel for its construction work at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
During a meeting with Khamenei and Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, the leader of Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Khamenei said, "The world of Islam should show a serious reaction to the Zionist regime's insult to the Al-Aqsa Mosque."