Israeli attorney-general asks to extend mosque closure

Monitoring Desk

JERUSALEM: The Israeli Attorney-General’s Office has asked an Israeli court to renew the closure of the Bab al-Rahma Mosque, one of several mosques located in Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, according to a group of Palestinian lawyers.

The Bab al-Rahma Mosque was first closed by the Israeli authorities in 2003. In 2017, an Israeli court renewed the closure order.

In mid-February, Jerusalem’s Religious Endowments Authority (a Jordan-run agency mandated with overseeing the city’s Islamic and Christian holy sites) reopened the mosque following Palestinian protests.

In a Monday joint statement, several Palestinian lawyers devoted to defending Al-Aqsa said they were aware of the attorney-general’s request for the mosque closure to be extended.

They added, however, that the request was “based on the false claim that the mosque was being used as an office for the Islamic Heritage Committee, which was banned by the Israeli authorities”. “In light of this dangerous development… we believe the Religious Endowments Authority should activate diplomatic efforts at the highest levels to force the Israeli authorities to respect international covenants and withdraw all requests submitted to the courts based on false and misleading claims,” the statement reads.

In recent days, Israel has banned several Palestinian religious officials — along with Al-Aqsa Mosque guards and Muslim worshipers — from entering the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex for periods ranging from one week to several months.

In their Monday statement, the lawyers asserted: “Arbitrary arrests and mass deportations [from Al-Aqsa] are continuing… in fundamental violation of the Religious Endowments Authority’s mandate… which the Israeli authorities are bound to respect.”

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community. (AA)