Only 50+ Palestinians to enter Al-Aqsa for Friday prayers

Ahram Online , Friday 15 Mar 2013

Israel will allow only Palestinians carrying Israeli identity cards and above 50 years old to perform the Friday prayers in Al-Aqsa mosque

Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Palestinians wait to cross into Israel at dawn at Hashmonaim checkpoint near the West Bank village of Nilin, west of Ramallah March 14, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Israeli police forces announced restrictions on Muslim Palestinians who seek to enter Al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Friday.

The newspaper stated that intelligence information, which reveals that Palestinians might seek to commit "riot acts", came behind such decision.  

The order allows only Palestinians carrying Israeli identity cards and above 50 years old to enter the mosque. Palestinians who cannot meet these criteria are banned to pray in the mosque, with an exception granted to women.

The Jerusalem-located Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. Israel's recurrent violations against the mosque have historically been a major source of tension and anger among Palestinians.

On 3 March, an Israeli officer attacked Palestinian female students inside the mosque and desecrated a copy of the Holy Quran, according to Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage.

"One of the Israeli officers located inside the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque attacked two students from a girls' school near Buraq Mosque next to the Mughrabi Gate," the media department chief at the Foundation Mahmoud Abu Atta said.

Abul Atta quotes the girls' account that the officer tried to chase them away to prevent them from reciting the Quran. When they refused, the officer kicked and walked on a copy of the Holy Quran.

He said that a number of men and women gathered near the Mughrabi Gate to condemn the crim, chanting "God is great."

Al-Aqsa Foundation condemned the "heinous crime" against the students, blaming the Israeli occupation forces of the consequences of what might happen and called for prompt action to defend the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Three days later, clashes erupted in Jerusalem on Wednesday after eight Jewish settlers entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of Israeli police.

The settlers prayed in front of the mosque before clashes broke out with Palestinian Muslims, a guard at the mosque told Egypt's state news agency MENA.

"Israeli authorities allow military troops, settlers and even tourists to enter Al-Aqsa, which provokes the feelings of Muslims praying in the mosque," the guard added.

A Palestinian man was shot during the clashes and transferred to a medical clinic. Also, An Israeli soldier removed a Palestinian woman's veil after she prevented a settler from photographing her.

These tensions came ahead of US President Barack Obama's three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories that will begin on 20 March.

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau said Obama was due to arrive Wednesday, March 20, at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and then head to Jerusalem for talks with President Shimon Peres and a dinner meeting with Netanyahu.

According to AFP, Israeli media reports and a Palestinian official have said that it will run from March 20-22 and take in talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

According to the official Israeli programme released by Netanyahu's office, Obama is due to visit on Thursday the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and then travel to Ramallah in the West Bank to meet Palestinian Authority officials.

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