Israel Mulls Opening Doors to Al-Aqsa to ‘All Muslims’ for Ramadan
Israel is considering opening the door to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied east Jerusalem to all Muslim worshippers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, police said Friday, although they fear there could be trouble.
"We have had talks with the Waqf, religious leaders and others to try to create a situation that will enable every Muslim to come and pray," Jerusalem police chief Yair Yitzhaki said, referring to the Islamic trust that has day-to-day control over the site.
Israel has imposed limits on the Palestinians allowed to pray at the mosque complex, the third holiest site in the Muslim world that lies in the walled Old City of occupied east Jerusalem, since the wave of deadly Israeli-Palestinian unrest erupted there eight weeks ago.
The Maariv newspaper, in an article headlined "Ramadan of Terror," quoted defense sources as warning of violent clashes and attacks on Israelis during the month of fasting and prayer, which starts with the sighting of the crescent moon.
The first Ramadan prayers will be next Friday.
The Palestinian uprising against the 33-year-old Israeli occupation is known as the al-Aqsa Intifada as it was triggered by a visit to the site by Israel's hawkish opposition leader Ariel Sharon on September 28.
"Like any other holy place like the Kotel (Western wall) and Christian sites, it should be that every Muslim can pray in his holy place," he said.
"But since this is the al-Asqa Intifada, we can't disconnect the place from the events and we fear that there will be problems here as has happened before," Yitzhaki told AFP.
"We cannot allow a problem here because every dead Palestinian here is much worse than in any other place and has more significance than any other place," he said.
Seven people died in fierce clashes at al-Aqsa and in the Old City the day after Sharon's provocative visit, although since then the violence has mostly flared in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"We are acting on the working hypothesis that other attacks will be carried out against civilian targets," Israel's police chief Yehuda Wilk said Thursday after a rush-hour car bomb attack in the northern town of Hadera the day before which killed two people.
He said the release from jail last month of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants by the Palestinian Authority had increase the danger of attacks.
During Ramadan, as many as half a million people crowd the al-Aqsa for weekly prayers, but with the Israeli restrictions allowing only men over the age of 45 into the site, the numbers this Friday were just 7,500, police said.
Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip are currently barred from entering Israel and occupied east Jerusalem because of a blockade slapped on the territories after the violence erupted.
The site built atop the Western or Wailing Wall, the holiest site in Judaism which Jews call the Temple Mount.
During Ramadan, Moslems refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and having sexual relations from sun up to sundown -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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