Israel on Sunday reaffirmed a long-standing agreement with Muslim authorities that prevents Jewish prayer at a disputed Jerusalem holy site, rejecting a lower Israeli court that questioned the legality of police action against violators.
The Al Aqsa Mosque complex, revered by Jews as a remnant of their two ancient temples, is a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Under the decades-old “status quo,” Israel allows Jews to visit only if they refrain from religious rites.
Three Jewish minors, who were ordered by police to stay away for 15 days after they prostrated themselves and sang a biblical prayer during a tour of the compound, challenged the ban in the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court. It ruled in his favor on Sunday.
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The police argued that the appellants had disrupted the officers’ duties and threatened public order. But Judge Zion Saharai, while noting he had no intention of interfering with law enforcement policy, said they had not “concerned (d) harm to national security, public safety, or individual safety.” “.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement calling the ruling “a grave attack on the historical status quo…and a blatant defiance of international law.”
Jordan, a US-backed Israeli security partner who serves as Al Aqsa’s custodian, has also raised concerns about Jewish visits to the compound.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said the ruling would be appealed to the Jerusalem High District Court.
“There is no change, nor is any change planned, to the status quo of the Temple Mount,” he said in a statement, using the Jewish term for the site Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary.
“The magistrate’s court’s decision focuses exclusively on the issue of the conduct of minors brought before it, and does not include a broader determination regarding freedom of worship on the Temple Mount.”
With the increase in the number of Jewish visits, even during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that coincided this year with the Jewish Passover festival, Palestinians have wept.
The ruling came a week before Jewish nationalists hold an annual flag march through Jerusalem’s Old City, marking its capture by Israel in a 1967 Middle East war. The event is resented by Palestinians, who they want the Old City and other parts of East Jerusalem as the capital of their expected future state.
Hamas, a Palestinian group that waged a war in Gaza with Israel last year that was fueled in part by tensions in Jerusalem, described the flag march’s planned route through a Muslim neighborhood of the Old City as “throwing wood to the fire”.
“I warn the enemy not to commit such crimes,” Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised speech.
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