[With Thanks to Imra.org.il for posting this important news item.]
Shortly after official Israeli warnings that Jewish terrorists are threatening to blow up Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Israel is again threatening to restrict access to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan by disseminating baseless rumors that the eastern and southern walls of Islam’s third holiest site could collapse on top of thousands of Muslim worshippers.
The Palestine National Authority (PNA) demanded Sunday that the Jerusalem Committee of the Organization of the Islamic conference (OIC) convene to confront the new Israeli threats.
Israel warned on Sunday that an eastern part of a religious site could collapse on top of thousands of Muslims during the upcoming Islamic holy month of Ramadan and said it might limit the number of Muslim worshippers.
Palestinians called the warning political, and a Jordanian expert said there was no danger.
The site is part of the Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary.
“We demand that Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Committee representing 16 Arab and Muslim nations convene to confront the Israeli threats, in particular those threats against the holy places in Jerusalem,” President Yaser Arafat’s media adviser Nabil Abu Rudainah told the Ramallah-based daily Al-Ayyam.
He warned that, “the dangerous Israeli measures would lead to endless disasters in the region.”
The Palestinian Islamic Waqf on Sunday denied the Israeli allegations, and condemned them as regular and annual rumors aimed at restricting the access of Muslim worshippers to the compound ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, expected to start mid-October.
Confirming that the site will be opened to worshippers as usual during upcoming Ramadan, director of the Islamic Waqf Adnan Al-Husseini told Al-Ayyam: “Absolutely there is no credibility in the Israeli rumors. they are similar to the rumors disseminated by the Israeli authorities ahead of Ramadan last year.”
Jordan Also Denies Israeli Allegations
Al-Husseini also denied any Jordanian involvement in the Israeli “warnings.”
“We are part of the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf, and what we say expresses their view as well,” Al-Husseini said.
“It seems to me that it is a policy to make people afraid before Ramadan,” said Al-Husseini.
Jerusalem’s Israeli Police Chief Ilan Franco led an Israeli delegation last week to Jordan, the country in charge of the Waqf (Islamic trust), and asked officials to either put up partitions to prevent worshippers from entering the eastern sector of the compound, or support beams to prevent the wall’s collapse.
Raef Nijem, the vice president of the Jordanian Construction Committee, a state body, said he commissioned a Cairo-based engineering team, headed by Saleh Lam’ie, to carry out a thorough investigation of the eastern wall earlier this year.
“The team came out with a positive result, and confirmed there was no danger of collapse,” Nijem told The Associated Press.
Israeli Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said the eastern wall of the mosque compound was in serious danger of collapse after a moderate earthquake last February worsened existing damage to the ancient structure.
Archaeologists at the Israel Antiquities Authorities fear that if tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers enter the site during Ramadan, it could lead to a collapse, Ezra claimed.
“The state of Israel cannot take any risk,” Ezra told Israel Radio. “If there is no support on the eastern wall, we will have no choice but to decrease the number of worshippers on the Temple Mount in the month of Ramadan, when there are more worshippers than usual,” he added.
Palestinian Waqf officials in Jerusalem, including an engineer who works at the ancient site, brushed off the Israeli warnings as “political.”
“It is not only that we are not fearing it, but we are dealing with it,” said Issam Awad, a Waqf engineer. “We have already restored the southern part of the wall and we are now in the process of restoring the eastern part.”
Last year, Israel warned the southern portion of the compound could collapse.
Shimon Gibson, a British archaeologist who is an expert on chambers under the shrine, including Al-Marwani Mosque (Known to foreigners as Solomon’s Stables) said it was unclear if there was any danger.
“I find that all sides tend to heat things up unnecessarily and they don’t deal directly with the problem at hand,” Gibson told AP.
Israeli Excavations the Real Danger
Islamic officials said the Israelis were trying to destabilize the complex by carrying out archaeological excavations in an area outside and under the compound.
“The Islamic Waqf does not have detailed information on the excavations, because the Israeli occupation authorities have barred access to Waqf engineers. We can, however, say for sure that exposing the foundations of the Aqsa Mosque by digging up the ground around it will place the Aqsa in grave danger,” the Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Sheikh Ikrama Sabri wrote @bitterlemons-international.org on September 2.
“In other words, the Aqsa mosque is constantly threatened one way or another. But the extremists’ threats are of concern because they may provide a pretext for international forces to intervene for the sake of internationalizing Jerusalem and “protecting” its holy sites,” he indicated.
In June 2004, then Israeli Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi announced that extremist Jewish groups were planning to destroy the Aqsa mosque either with an unmanned plane filled with explosives or a plane flown by a suicide bomber. The Higher Islamic Commission and other Islamic bodies immediately issued a condemnation and warned that they would hold the Israeli government responsible if any harm should befall the mosque, Sabri said.
Since the Israeli occupation in 1967, the Islamic Waqf has been constantly wary of Israeli attempts by extremists to harm Al-Aqsa. Most infamous was the fire set to the Aqsa Mosque on August 21, 1969 at the hands of one Michael Dennis Rohan, said to be an Australian national.
Israeli excavations in the area began in the 1970s and took the form of tunnels focused on the area adjacent to the outer western wall of the compound. The digging eventually led to several cracks appearing in a number of ancient buildings belonging to the Islamic Waqf along the western wall in the area of the Chains, Iron and Qataneen Gates, which date back to the Ayyoubid, Mamluk and Ottoman eras respectively.
Israeli Palestinians On Alert
On Friday September 10 over 70,000 Israeli Arab Palestinians attended an annual Islamic Movement festival in Umm al-Fahm under the banner “Al-Aqsa is in danger.”
The movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, did not take part in the festival, as he is standing trial on allegedly “security offenses” along with several other movement officials.
The mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine attended the rally, as well as the spokesman of the Orthodox church in Jerusalem Archbishop Attallah Hanna and Druze representatives from the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.