Israeli police have banned two top religious officials from entering East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to a Palestinian official on Sunday.
“Sheikh Abdul-Azim Salhab, the head of the Muslim Waqf (Endowment) Council in Jerusalem, was banned from entering the mosque compound for 40 days,” Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, a Jordan-run organisation responsible for overseeing the city’s Islamic and Christian sites, told Anadolu Agency.
He said Sheikh Najeh Bkerat, the deputy director of Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, was also banned from the holy site for four months.
Israeli police also banned a mosque guard, Arafat Najib, from entering the holy site for a six-month period, the spokesman said.
The Israeli ban has drawn fire from Jordan’s Awqaf Ministry, which described the move as an “intimidation”.
“This is an intimidation of the Awqaf Council members…and a direct targeting of the Hashemite (Jordanian) guardianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites,” the ministry said in a statement.
Sunday’s ban came one week after Israeli police briefly arrested Salhab and Bkerat in raids on their homes in Jerusalem.
Tension has mounted in Jerusalem last week in the wake of Israel’s closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque’s Rahma Gate on the eastern wall of Jerusalem’s Old City, triggering angry Palestinian protests.
For Muslims, the Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount”, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognised by the international community.