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Israeli authorities seal off graves in Palestinian cemetery outside Jerusalem Old City

Sept. 11, 2016 3:13 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 12, 2016 12:01 P.M.)
(MaanImages/File)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities reportedly sealed two unused graves in the Bab al-Rahma cemetery outside the eastern wall of the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem Sunday morning, according to witnesses.

Witnesses told Ma’an that inspectors from the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority entered the cemetery under Israeli police protection when they sealed off two pre-dug, unused graves.

It remained unclear if the graves were filled and sealed with concrete or dirt.

Palestinian workers from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound highlighted that the Nature and Parks Authority along with other Israeli authorities have been “trying to confiscate parts of the Bab al-Rahma cemetery to use them as pedestrian lanes for Jewish parks” for some time.

An Israeli Nature and Parks Authority spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Dozens of Palestinians had gathered in the cemetery in September 2015 after Israeli authorities announced plans to seize parts of the cemetery for a national park trail.

Local Islamic leaders in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan gathered with the committee for the preservation of Islamic cemeteries in Jerusalem, and called for protests after the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority announced its plan to confiscate 40 percent of the cemetery’s area.

Palestinian youths at the time pulled down a barbed wire fence that Israeli authorities put up around part the cemetery.

The head of the committee for the preservation of Islamic cemeteries in Jerusalem, Mustafa Abu Zahra, told Ma'an last year that the part of the cemetery that was fenced off included gravesites.

Abu Zahra said that the Israeli authorities "claimed they were putting a court decision into effect," but he said that the authorities had given no evidence of a court ruling backing their plans to seize parts of the cemetery.

Bab al-Rahma, meaning Door of Mercy, runs along the eastern wall of Jerusalem's Old City and has been in use for more than 1,000 years.

Abu Zahra added that documents existed that proved the land belongs to the Islamic Endowment, which controls the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. He said the documents clearly show the exact borders of the cemetery.

Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, commented at the time on the matter, saying "not only does the Israeli occupation go after living Muslims, but even the dead are not safe."

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