The most senior Islamic official in Jerusalem, Mufti Ikrima Sabri, ruled Monday that all of what Muslims call al-Haram al-Sharif, the disputed area known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is exclusively a Muslim domain.
In an official fatwa or Islamic decree, Mufti Sabri wrote: "The whole area of al-Aqsa mosque, including the western wall and all the walls is a Muslim area according to Islamic interpretations and none other is allowed to control it or even practice religious rituals on it, or on any part of it."
The al-Aqsa mosque, the third most holy site in Islam, sits atop of the Western or Wailing Wall, the most sacred shrine for Jews.
Muslims call the entire east Jerusalem compound al-Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, while Jews revere it as the site of their two temples, the second of which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
"The fact that the Jews are occupying Palestine, its mosques and al-Aqsa mosque does not give them a right to the mosque and they cannot bargain on Muslim rights," continued the fatwa.
Both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have conditionally accepted a US proposal to divide control over the controversial holy mount in Jerusalem, with Palestinians having authority over the mosque compound and Israelis having sovereignty over the Wailing Wall.
Jewish and Islamic hardliners, however, refuse any compromise on the site, with each side insisting on controlling the entire structure -- JERUSALEM (AFP)