Palestinians Accuse Israel of Blocking Access to Jerusalem Holy Sites
The Palestinians accused Israel Monday of preventing Christians and Muslims from praying in Jerusalem's holy sites and warned that the policy would provoke clashes with the onset of Muslim holy month of Ramadan in three weeks.
"First Muslims and Christians are prevented from entering Jerusalem because of the Israeli blockade on the city," said Faisal Husseini, the top PLO official for Jerusalem affairs.
"Then Muslims allowed into the Old City are denied access to the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Aqsa mosque compound)," Husseini added, denouncing Israeli security measures in place for much of the deadly five-week Palestinian Intifada or uprising that restrict access to the esplanade housing the al-Aqsa mosque.
Israel currently prevents any Palestinian under the age of 45 from attending Friday prayers at al-Aqsa, the third most holy site in Islam.
"We are warning that such a situation cannot bring calm. Such a policy adds oil to the fire," Husseini said.
Sheikh Mohammed Hussein of the Islamic trust that controls much of the daily operations at al-Aqsa said that Israel only permits 3,000 to 4,000 people to enter the mosque complex for Friday prayers.
During Ramadan, Husseini said, as many as half a million people generally crowd the holy site, built atop a hill supported by the Western or Wailing Wall, the holiest site in Judaism which Jews call the Temple Mount.
"We are approaching Ramadan and if this Israeli policy -- which is an aggression to the sensibilities of all Muslims -- continues, it will provoke more confrontations," Sheikh Hussein said.
Atallah Hannah of the Greek Orthodox Church said: "the suffering of Muslims is the same for the Christians, who have trouble reaching the Old City and visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher."
The Holy Sepulcher marks the spot where Christian tradition says Jesus Christ was crucified and entombed and is the most holy site in Christianity.
The Palestinian uprising, known as the al-Aqsa Intifada, erupted over Israeli right-wing leader Ariel Sharon's September 28 visit to the mosque complex -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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