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Islamic council rejects Israeli court closure at Al-Aqsa compound

Despite Israel’s ultimatum to close the site by Monday, Waqf says Bab al-Rahma will remain open for Muslims to pray.


The Islamic authority that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem has rejected an Israeli court order to close a hall in the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound that has ignited tension between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police in recent weeks.

Sheikh Abdel Azeem Salhab, head of the Waqf Council appointed by neighbouring Jordan, said on Tuesday that the structure, Bab al-Rahma, also known as the “Gate of Mercy”, would “remain open for Muslims to pray,” despite Israel’s ultimatum to close the site by next Monday.

“We will not respond to courts of the occupation regarding the issue of Bab al-Rahma and Al-Aqsa Mosque and it [does not have authority over the matter],” the council said in a statement after it convened for an emergency meeting on Tuesday.

Salhab demanded that Israel permit the Waqf to renovate the building and revoke orders banning dozens of Waqf officials, guards and worshippers from the sacred compound.

Israeli authorities banned 133 Palestinians from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque in February, according to a report by the Jerusalem-based Wadi Hilweh Information Centre.

Among them was Salhab, who was banned from entering the holy compound for 40 days, an unprecedented move by Israeli authorities.

The deputy director Sheikh Najeh Bkerat was also issued a ban for four months.


Some 229 people were also arrested in February, according to the report.

Tensions have mounted in Jerusalem since Palestinians opened Bab al-Rahma last month, located in the compound by the eastern wall of the Old City. Prayers by Muslim worshippers have been taking place at the site since then.

Israel had sealed off the structure in 2003, claiming the building was being used for political activities by an outlawed group. The Waqf has recently challenged the closure, claiming that it has administrative authority over all structures within the compound.

Calls for a synagogue

Adding to the tension, activists from the Israeli right wing have called on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build a synagogue at Bab al-Rahma, according to The Jerusalem Post newspaper.


The daily reported on Tuesday that activists have urged the government to open “the synagogue for Jewish prayers”.

This came during a meeting attended by scores of right-wing activists on Sunday, the newspaper said.

At the end of the meeting, the activists called for Israelis to ascend to the holy compound en masse on Thursday “to strengthen the Jewish hold on the holy site”, according to the JewishPress news website.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina. Jews refer to the area as the “Temple Mount” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.




pakistan madrassa

Images show madrasa buildings standing after Indian attack claim

Satellite imagery shows at least six Jaish-e-Muhammad structures still standing on March 4 – six days after air strikes.


Satellite images show a religious school run by Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) in northeastern Pakistan still appears to be standing days after India claimed warplanes destroyed it and killed a large number of fighters.

The images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, show at least six buildings on the madrasa site on March 4 – six days after the air strikes. Until now, no high-resolution satellite images were publicly available.

The images are virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility. There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrasa or other signs of an aerial attack.

The images cast further doubt on statements made over the last eight days by the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the raids, early on February 26, had hit all the intended targets at the madrasa site in northern Pakistan’s Balakat region.

India’s foreign and defence ministries did not reply to questions emailed by Reuters news agency about the satellite images.

Missed target?

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, confirmed the photographs showed the structures in question still standing.

“The high-resolution images don’t show any evidence of bomb damage,” he said.

Government sources said last week 12 Mirage 2000 jets carrying 1,000kg bombs carried out the attack.

Lewis and Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for nonproliferation studies who also analyses satellite images, said weapons that large would have caused obvious damage to the structures visible in the picture.

“If the strike had been successful – given the information we have about what kind of munitions were used – I would expect to see signs that the buildings had been damaged,” said Lewis. “I just don’t see that here.”

Pakistan has disputed India’s account, saying the operation was a failure that saw Indian jets, under pressure from Pakistani planes, drop their bombs on a largely empty hillside.

“There has been no damage to any infrastructure or human life as a result of Indian incursion,” Major-General Asif Ghafoor said. “This has been vindicated by both domestic and international media after visiting the site.”

Political fire

India must hold a general election by May and pollsters say Modi and his Hindu nationalist party stand to benefit from his aggressive response to a suicide bomb attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in the disputed Kashmir region on February 14.

Indian officials said hundreds of “terrorists” were killed in the air strikes.

But the Indian government failed to produce evidence that the camp was destroyed and fighters were killed. That prompted some opposition politicians to push for more details.

Modi has accused the opposition Congress party and other opponents of helping India’s enemies by demanding evidence of the attacks.

After the Indian air force incursion, a dogfight resulted in the capture of a downed Indian pilot, who was released on March 1 as part of a “peace gesture” by Pakistan.



{SOURCE: al- jazeera news networks}


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