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Group: Israel to enforce Jewish prayer time at Al-Aqsa

Sept. 29, 2009 7:31 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 1, 2009 12:41 P.M.)
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israel plans to allow Jewish worshipers to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on a regular basis, dividing prayer time between Muslims and Jews, officials at the Islamic Christian Society in Support of Jerusalem said Monday.

Currently Israeli citizens are not permitted to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the Haram Ash-Sharif. On Sunday, however, clashes broke out inside the sanctuary when extremist Jews - reports dispute whether or not the culprits were Israeli citizens - entered the area along with Israeli soldiers. The compound was locked down during the clashes and 13 were injured. Israeli forces also raided Palestinian Jerusalem and detained dozens military sources say were involved in the clashes.

According to the society, there will be 50 Jewish holidays on which Jews will have exclusive access to the compound for worship. The religious calendars of the Muslim and Jewish faith often overlap, with the Jewish Rosh Hashana holiday coinciding with the final Friday of the Muslim Ramadan. The society calls the decision “unacceptable.”

Officials, including Sheikh Taisir At-Tamimi, Archbishop Atallah Hanna, Dr. Hasan Khater, Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsour and Father Manuel Musallam from the society spoke at a news conference Monday in Ramallah. They warned that such a policy was dangerous, and “went beyond the red line.”

The religious leaders then appealed to Palestinian leaders to seek a national agreement so they could prevent Israel from taking over the site, which Jews believe is the place where the Second Temple stood. Plans from extremist and even moderate right wing groups to raze Al-Aqsa and build a Third Temple have been repeatedly uncovered.

The leaders called the plan a war crime, noting there were attacks on Al-Aqsa from “above and below,” referring to the contentious excavation work Israel is carrying out on tunnels beneath the compound.

The officials called all the Muslims to fast on Thursday and all the Christians to pray on Sunday as an expression of solidarity with Jerusalem and all the holy places in the city.

Sheikh Taisir At-Tamimi urged Palestinians to attend worship ceremonies in the Olc City of Jerusalem and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular, in order to stave off encroaching Israeli presence in the area.

The Archbishop Atallah Hanna asked all Christians to join their fellow Muslims in prayer on Sunday to be in solidarity with Al-Aqsa mosque. He stressed that targeting Al-Aqsa is only the beginning of targeting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

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