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Israeli excavations and blocking of restoration eat away at the fabric of Al-Aqsa Mosque

Muslims arrive to perform Friday prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]
Muslims arrive to perform Friday prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]

The Israeli occupation authorities are continuing their criminal, racist policies against Jerusalem and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and attempting to implement the Talmudic plans to fulfil the dream of extremist Jewish settlers to demolish the mosque and build a temple on its ruins, the Palestinian Information Centre has revealed. Every possible crime is committed with this objective in mind, including excavations under Al-Aqsa Mosque and its courtyards to undermine the foundations, said the news outlet, as well as in the surrounding neighbourhoods to change the demography. Moreover, the Islamic Religious Endowments Department is prevented from carrying out essential restoration work on the fabric of the ancient structures in the Noble Sanctuary.

Recent heavy rain has exposed serious cracks in the sanctuary's buildings, facilities, walls, ceilings and floors; rainwater has leaked into the Marwani Mosque and soaked the carpets. Paving stones on Via Dolorosa near Al-Ghanamwa Gate have collapsed and stones on the Western side of the Dome of the Rock have fallen.

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Israeli excavations have also recently caused the collapse of retaining walls and floors in houses in Jerusalem's neighbourhoods. In Silwan, part of the house of Jerusalem resident Kayed Al-Rajabi collapsed in the Batn Al-Hawa area, and a retaining wall collapsed in Ain Al-Lawza neighbourhood. There is a real danger of homes belonging to Palestinian Jerusalemites collapsing, and this threat has increased after the occupation forces demolished a retaining wall belonging to the Abu Tayeh family a few days ago.

Israeli occupation forces look set to increase their policy of bulldozing Palestinian land and property in 2023 - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Israeli occupation forces look set to increase their policy of bulldozing Palestinian land and property in 2023 – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

The Elad illegal settlers' association revealed earlier that it had concluded its excavations in Jabal Mukaber and Silwan, and that it had obtained the approval of the occupation-controlled municipality in Jerusalem to start building a huge tourist centre at the top of Jabal Mukaber. Settlers' groups are working to link illegal settlements between Silwan and Jabal Mukaber, blocking any expansion of Palestinian residential areas.

"The [Israeli] occupation is deliberately preventing the restoration in conjunction with the continuation of its excavations under Al-Aqsa and its surroundings, in order to have an impact on the buildings of the mosque and expose them to collapse," Muhammad Hamada, the spokesman on Jerusalem issues for Hamas, told the Palestinian Information Centre. He also referred to the Talmudic plans to demolish the mosque and build a temple in its place.

Hamada explained that the rain damage is an example of the deliberate Zionist policy and "crimes" against Al-Aqsa Mosque. Alarm bells should be ringing every time there is any bad weather, he insisted. "What are we waiting for in order to protect the mosque and prevent a catastrophe after which regret will not be of any use?" He stressed the need for action at all levels to force the Israeli occupation authorities to allow restoration and repair work and the entry of the necessary equipment to carry this out. "All gaps and holes need to be closed as a matter of urgency. Stonework needs to be strengthened, including the walls. Proper, regular maintenance should start without delay."

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The Hamas spokesman said that the Zionist occupation is fully responsible for what is happening to the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa, as it has prevented restoration work for years.

"This is serious. It poses a risk to the mosque as well as the worshippers and those who stay in religious seclusion and work there. The occupation's continued escalation of its Judaisation plans and systematic excavations in Al-Aqsa expose its facilities and the fabric of the buildings to many dangers. It is a heinous crime being done to provoke the Palestinians and Muslims around the world."

Nevertheless, added Hamada, the people and the nation will support Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa. "And our people will continue to act as a barrier to defend them by all means."

The deputy head of the Islamic Religious Endowments Department in Jerusalem, Dr Najeh Bakirat, also pointed out that the prevention of restoration and repair work is a threat that could lead to the collapse of vital structures within Al-Aqsa Sanctuary. "The occupation's approach," he added, "poses a great threat to the mosque and other buildings that are many hundreds of years old." He appealed to international organisations and heritage bodies to prosecute the occupation state for not allowing the damage in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque to be repaired.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 9 February 2023

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