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Israeli forces detain six Waqf employees at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Aug. 4, 2016 1:19 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 4, 2016 6:02 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained six employees of the Islamic Endowment (Waqf), which manages the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City, on Thursday morning.

According to Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri, the employees were detained over suspicions that they were planning on carrying out maintenance work on the Dome of the Rock without obtaining a permit from the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

Sources told Ma’an that the Israeli police raided Al-Aqsa compound and detained Bassam al-Hallaq, the head of the Waqf rehabilitation committee.

Israeli police also detained five employees of the committee while working inside the mosque, who were identified as Muhammad al-Dabbagh, Anas al-Dabbagh, Mahmoud al-Anati, Suleiman Abd al-Latif, and Mutasem Karameh.

Al-Samri said that the six Palestinians were taken to the al-Qishla police station in the Old City for interrogation, adding that al-Hallaq had been banned from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for five days.

This marked the second time Israeli forces detained al-Hallaq this week, after they briefly detained him on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning
, Israeli police officers detained al-Hallaq and three other Waqf rehabilitation committee employees, as groups of right-wing Israelis toured the site. One of the employees, identified as Issa Salhab, was banned from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for two weeks.

Israeli authorities have launched a crackdown on Waqf employees over the last week, detaining some, banning others from entering the compound, while hindering the ongoing repair works at the holy site.

On Tuesday, Israeli police reportedly assaulted one of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound guards and obstructed repair works for a water pipe.

Israeli authorities have recently banned seven Waqf employees from Al-Aqsa, including spokesperson Firas al-Dibs and a number of security guards. Several security guards have also been summoned by Israeli police for questioning.

The third holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Despite this agreement, the Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site -- often under armed guard. Such visits are typically made by right-wingers attempting to unsettle the status quo at the site, and coincide with restrictions on Palestinian access, including bans on entrance and detentions.

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