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Jerusalem's Israeli mayor rekindles Ramadan cannon controversy

Aug. 20, 2009 7:30 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 23, 2009 9:40 A.M.)
Jerusalem – Ma’an – The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem drew criticism on Thursday with an announcement that he will personally fire the traditional Ramadan cannon early in the Muslim holy month.

Ramadan, a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting and prayer, is expected to begin at sundown on Friday, pending a declaration from Islamic officials. The firing of the cannon on Sunday will mark the end of the day's fast.

Ekrima Sabri, the orator of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the chief of the Islamic Supreme Committee, said Mayor Nir Barkat is attempting to provide political cover for his administration’s evictions of Palestinian residents and destruction of Palestinian houses.

Mayor Barkat heads the Jerusalem Municipality, an institution not recognized by Palestinians as legitimate because it administers areas east of the Green Line, which were occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. The international community also does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem.

Sabri referred to the Israel’s forcible eviction of two Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and ongoing house demolitions in the Silwan neighborhood.

Sabri told Ma’an that he “rejects” Barkat’s claim of sharing Muslim religious traditions. “First of all he [the mayor] should stop house demolition orders and cancel the fines against on Palestinian merchants in Jerusalem.”

“The mayor had already waged war against the Palestinians,” he said, arguing that Israel should not intervene in Islamic affairs.

The Palestinian Sanduqa family is by tradition responsible for firing the Ramadan cannon. The family has passed the job down since the tradition began during Ottoman rule in the early 20th century.

The Jerusalem Municipality said that Barkat will fire the cannon at 7:20pm in the ancient cemetery on Salah Ad-Din Street in East Jerusalem on Sunday 23 August.

Past Israeli mayors have also fired the cannon. Former Mayor Uri Lupolianski fired the cannon in 2007 and 2008.
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