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Israel arrests two Aqsa guards amid mounting tension

March 17, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Israeli forces stand off against Palestinians as they enter the Al Aqsa Mosque following the removal of Israeli security measures near the entrances to Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem, on July 27, 2017 [Mostafa Alkharouf / Anadolu Agency]

Israeli police detained two guards at East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday, according to Palestinian authorities.

One guard was arrested as he went out from Al-Majlis gate, one of the Al-Aqsa mosque gates, Jerusalem’s Religious Endowments Authority, a Jordan-run agency mandated with overseeing the city’s Muslim and Christian holy sites, said in a brief statement.

It said the guard has been taken into custody for interrogation.

Another guard was arrested while entering the holy site, according to the authority’s spokesman Firas al-Dibs.

It remains unclear the reason for the guards’ arrest, which came shortly after an Israeli court extended the closure of Bab al-Rahma Mosque, one of several mosques located in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

The Bab al-Rahma Mosque was first closed by the Israeli authorities in 2003. In 2017, an Israeli court renewed the closure order.

Tension has mounted in Jerusalem since last month, when Israeli police briefly sealed the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s Rahma Gate, adjacent to the eastern wall of Jerusalem’s Old City, triggering angry Palestinian demonstrations.

In the weeks since, the Israeli authorities have banned scores of Palestinians – including religious officials – from entering the Al-Aqsa, which for Muslims represents the world’s third holiest site.

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.

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