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Egypt's Grand Mufti hails UNESCO resolution affirming Muslims right to Jerusalem

UNESCO's draft resolution uses only the Islamic names for key sites in Jerusalem, including Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and decries "Israeli illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access" to their holy sites

Ahram Online , Friday 14 Oct 2016
Al Aqsa
File photo of Muslim worshipers run as tear gas fired by Israeli policemen rises during clashes at Al-Aqsa mosque in July 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's Grand Imam, Shawky Allam, one of the world’s highest Sunni Muslim authorities, hailed Friday a UNESCO resolution that uses only the Islamic names for parts of the Old City of Jerusalem, such as "Al-Aqsa Compound" or "Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif," and denounces Israel for restricting Muslim access to the holy site and for aggression by Israeli occupation forces and extreme settler groups.

In his statement Friday, as reported by Al-Ahram Arabic website, Allam urged swift action to capitalise on UNESCO's resolution that affirms Muslims' right to Jerusalem, to establish the State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.

UNESCO's draft resolution, entitled "Occupied Palestine," strongly condemns "escalating Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif, and requests Israel, the Occupying Power, to respect the historic status quo and to immediately stop these measures."

In the past year, Israeli authorities allowed increasing numbers of Jewish settlers to access  and storm Al-Aqsa compund while restricting Muslims' entrance.  

Allam called on the international community, including the UN and Security Council, to work hard to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, sure the right to return for Palestinians, establish the Palestinian state and end the tragedy for Palestinians.

Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO Friday saying the resolution denies the "historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem."

Israelis refer to the area that encompasses Al-Aqsa Mosque as the "Temple Mount," saying it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the UNESCO resolution, while Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dubbed the resolution "absurd," AP reported.

The resolution also reaffirms "that ... two concerned sites located in Al-Khalil/Hebron and in Bethlehem are an integral part of Palestine."

On the Gaza Strip, the resolution "deeply deplores the new cycle of violence, going on since October 2015, in the context of the constant aggressions by Israeli settlers and other extremist groups against Palestinian residents, including school children, also asks the Israeli authorities to prevent such aggressions."

Since October 2015, Israel's deadly use of force against Palestinian protests in Gaza and the West Bank has killed 230 Palestinians.

Al-Aqsa Compound is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The resolution, which was passed Thursday at the committee level, is sponsored by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 war. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state, a move never recognised by the international community.

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