Bulldozers carry out work on a pathway next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem (MaanImages/Magnus Johansson, File)
JERUSALEM – The deputy leader of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Kamal al-Khateib, said Tuesday that the Israeli municipal council of Jerusalem planned to transform the yards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound into public parks and gardens, to make them accessible for the Jews to visit at any time.
Speaking to reporters, Al-Khateib said that the process of ‘Judaising’ Jerusalem had been accelerated since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. “The occupation is working to efface the Palestinian features in the holy city through unprecedented procedures they carried out this month,” he added.
“For the first time, the occupation has allowed settlers and extremists to access Al-Aqsa compound during Ramadan paying no attention to the feelings of the Muslim worshipers there,” he said. “Meanwhile, the municipality which represents the occupation approved a decision to consider the yards in Al-Aqsa compound public parks which anybody can access.”
In mid-July Palestinian officials denounced Yehuda Weinstein, the Israeli attorney general, after he claimed that the Al-Aqsa area was part of Israel and referred to the mosque’s courtyards as public space.
Weinstein was quoted on Israeli news sites as saying the area was under Israeli jurisdiction for matters such as planning and building, and said the courtyard was for public use.
In his remarks Tuesday, Al-Khateib said soldiers detained the imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday while he was praying. “Israeli troops stormed the mosque and prevented worshipers from completing their prayer,” he said.
On Thursday a mosque guard told Ma’an that 20 rightists entered the grounds of the holy site.
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Planning permission has been approved for the construction of a new military complex on Al-Zaytoun and Al-Mokabber Hills overlooking the southern side of Al-Aqsa Mosque. A site of around 10.5 acres has been earmarked for the project by the Israeli authorities. The new complex will include the HQ of the General Staff, a college of national security, a military academy and accommodation for soldiers and senior officers.
The project is consistent with the strategy of extending Israel’s de facto sovereignty over the so-called “holy basin” that is adjacent to the Al-Aqsa compound and the Old City of Jerusalem. This is planned to make Jerusalem the headquarters of Israel’s security, military and political authorities in order to be declared to be the “capital of the Jewish people” in 2020, at which stage there will be no place for the Palestinians.
A specialist in settlement affairs said that the plan contravenes international conventions and even Israel’s own planning and building regulations. Researcher Ahmed Laban pointed out that the proposed college complex is in occupied East Jerusalem, on the Palestinian side of the old Green Line. This, he added, is intended as yet another settlement in the heart of the Palestinian suburbs of Jerusalem.
The director of the International Jerusalem Centre, an expert in Jerusalem affairs, said that this project is an extension of a series of comprehensive plans started in 2007 to change Jerusalem’s mountains into massive military shelters for the Israeli leadership during non-conventional warfare. Hassan Khater confirmed that the Israeli government has already started on projects in other areas in Jerusalem. “The government is building shelters connected to its headquarter and others connected to the official residence of the Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem,” he said. “Despite the secrecy and ambiguity surrounding these projects, it is clear that the Israeli government is carrying on with its Judaisation plans to prepare Jerusalem as the capital of the state.”
Both Khater and Laban confirmed their belief that the Israelis do not discriminate against Islamic heritage and Muslim residents in Jerusalem, pointing out that Palestinian Muslims and Christians are targeted equally. “Many Christian buildings have been destroyed and others are in danger if these projects go ahead,” said Mr. Khater.
Calling on the Palestinian Authority and the international community to take “serious measures” to stop the Judaisation of Jerusalem, both men also asked them to support the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem in their struggle against what is seen as the ethnic cleansing of their city by the Israeli authorities.
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Sharif Rajoub works as a reporter for al-Aqsa radio station.
HEBRON – Israeli forces detained a local journalist in Hebron early Sunday, relatives said.
Soldiers raided the home of Sharif Rajoub in the village of Dura and took him to an unknown destination, his brother Mahmoud told Ma’an.
Rajoub works as a reporter for Al-Aqsa radio station. He was preparing for his wedding, which was set to take place next week, his brother added.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said that a man had been arrested in Dura overnight Saturday, but could not provide further details about his identity.
Another man was arrested in Ramallah overnight, she added.
Israeli forces have raided several Palestinian news outlets in recent months.
In late February, Israeli forces raided the university institute’s Al-Quds Educational TV in Ramallah-district Al-Bireh and confiscated its broadcasting equipment, claiming it was interrupting legal broadcasting.
The same day, Israeli forces also raided Watan TV’s newsroom in Ramallah and seized transmitters.
In May, Israeli forces arrested the director of a Jenin-based satellite channel after raiding his home. Soldiers confiscated Al-Asir TV station’s broadcasting equipment, the director told Ma’an.
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