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Israeli NGO warns of fresh tensions at Al Aqsa Mosque compound

An Israeli NGO has expressed concern over recent actions by the authorities at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, citing in particular "police actions taken against Islamic Waqf employees."

According to Ir Amim, which focuses on Israeli policies in East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities have harassed, obstructed, or detained Waqf employees on a number of occasions over recent weeks.

On July 27, for example, two Waqf employees were arrested by police following an altercation with a group of Israeli archaeologists who refused to leave the compound when asked. The group included an individual working on the settler-run "Temple Mount sifting project."

On August 2, police prevented Waqf employees "from fixing a burst underground pipe in the compound", arresting one Waqf member and summoning three others for questioning. On August 3, police again blocked employees from "working on the restoration of mosaics inside the Dome of the Rock", and arrested four, including the head of the restoration team.

The next day, when the team tried to renew its work, the police banned the team's head from the compound for five days, and arrested "five additional Waqf employees." Another individual was arrested on August 7, but no details were provided.

Ir Amim noted that these developments follow on from "a long list of incidents between the police and the Waqf at the end of Ramadan, including the widely publicized disruption of food deliveries to break the day long fasts."

Meanwhile, Ir Amim stated that government minister MK Ze'ev Elkin is scheduled to participate in an August 13 event "organized by a far right wing group with ties to the Temple Movement."

According to the group, "this is the first time since 2012 that a Likud minister will take part in an event organized by a Temple Movement group."

Ir Amim concludes by warning that "local flare-ups – particularly in proximity to major Jewish holiday periods, when the volume of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif rises – leads to a parallel increase in the application of collective restrictions on Muslim worshippers' access."

There is "a direct correlation between the imposition of collective restrictions and escalation of tensions and violence in the compound and East Jerusalem", Ir Amim states.

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