Israel confiscates section of Islamic cemetery adjacent to al-Aqsa mosque

Published September 2nd, 2015 - 12:30 GMT

Israeli authorities on Wednesday morning confiscated a stretch of land belonging to an Islamic cemetery outside the eastern walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, a Palestinian official told Ma'an.

Mustafa Abu Zahra, who heads a committee maintaining Islamic cemeteries in occupied East Jerusalem, said that Israeli nature authority inspectors and Israeli soldiers stormed Bab al-Rahma cemetery and set up a barbed wire fence around a large area of the cemetery's land.

Bab al-Rahma, meaning Door of Compassion, runs along the eastern wall of Jerusalem's Old City and has been in use for more than 1,000 years.

Abu Zahra said that there are graves lying in the land that was seized.

He said that the land belongs to the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Endowment, which also oversees the adjoining Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.

Abu Zahra said that "for years Israel has been confiscating land which belongs to the cemetery to use it for touristic routes."

Two weeks ago, Israeli forces set up barbed wire fence around a 7,000 square meter stretch of land next to the Bab al-Rahma cemetery belonging to the al-Husseini and al-Ansari families.Abu Zahra said: "Today, the (Israeli) occupation wants to designate new borders for the Islamic cemetery, but its borders and walls were made hundreds of years ago."

He added that the Israeli authorities "claimed they were putting a court decision into effect," but he said that they had given no evidence of a court ruling backing their action.

Separately on Wednesday, Israeli forces continued to impose severe restrictions on the entry of Palestinians into the adjoining Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Director of the mosque Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Ma'an that all women and some men were denied entry to the compound during the morning.

He said that schoolchildren attending religious schools inside the mosque compound also had difficulties accessing the holy site.

Senior Palestinian officials have expressed concerns in recent weeks that Israel is restricting access to the compound in a bid to establish daily Jewish prayer, despite an agreement forbidding non-Muslim worship at the site.

Commenting on the confiscation of part of the cemetery, al-Kiswani said: "Not only does the Israeli occupation go after living Muslims, but even the dead are not safe."

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