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Waqf officially forms committees to assess any Israeli damages on Al-Aqsa

Aug. 1, 2017 9:12 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 1, 2017 10:52 P.M.)
Muslim worshipers pictured praying near the Dome of the Rock in Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli/ File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Islamic Endowment, or Waqf -- in charge of running Al-Aqsa Mosque compound -- has formed four committees to officially assess any damage caused to the properties of the premises by Israeli forces following recent unrest around the holy site, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Tuesday.

Israeli authorities shut down Al-Aqsa compound for almost three days following a deadly shooting attack on July 14, only to reopen it after having installed increased security measures.

The Israeli move sparked widespread anger among Palestinians, who perceived the move as further infringement of Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam. After two weeks of protests in which six Palestinians were killed in clashes, the security measures were lifted completely after noon prayers on Friday.

According to Wafa, the reports of the committee formations came from the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Adnan Husseini, who told Voice of Palestine radio on Monday that the committees -- reportedly consisting of “staff from the Islamic Museum, the Manuscripts Department, the Reconstruction Committee, the libraries and the Sharia Court” -- would be tasked with providing an initial report on any damages incurred on the holy site during its closure.

He reportedly added that the initial report would be followed up with investigations into whether Israeli authorities had installed hidden cameras or listening devices in the mosque and its premises.

The final stage, Husseini reportedly said, would be to charge Israeli authorities in international courts if “any changes” were made at Al-Aqsa or if items, including historical documents, were found to be stolen from the holy site.

The President of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem Sheikh Ikrima Sabri said on Monday that the technical committee of the Waqf was the only authority entitled to make statements about any damages or losses incurred since, urging media outlets to exercise caution when publishing news on Al-Aqsa.

Sabri's comments came after Hassan Khater, the chairman of the International Jerusalem Center claimed that Israeli forces had seized important documents from the Waqf archives during the three days following the July 14 attack, adding that Israeli officers had been "moving freely between rooms, offices, archives, and documents after they evacuated worshipers, employees, and security guards from the compound."

During other interviews with Voice of Palestine, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani reportedly said that Israeli forces had “failed to achieve its plan to separate Jerusalem from its political leadership,” referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ support of the already ongoing mass civil disobedience campaign led by Palestinian Jerusalemites to protect Al-Aqsa.

“The victory of our people in Jerusalem was achieved due to one national position and unity of the leadership and the people in the face of Israeli measures,” he reportedly said.

Wafa added that the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) were also expected to meet on Tuesday in Istanbul to discuss Israel’s recent policies at Al-Aqsa, while the Ambassador of Palestine to the OIC Maher Karaki said he would urge OIC member states and the international community “to act immediately to put pressure on Israel and compel it to implement international law and not to repeat its recent actions at Al-Aqsa.”

Palestinians have celebrated their successful protests around Al-Aqsa in the context of routine Israeli violations of Palestinian life and properties in East Jerusalem, which makes such victories seldom amid Israel's continued occupation of the territory.

Meanwhile, others have pointed out that Israel continues to restrict millions of Palestinians from accessing the holy site through its annexation of East Jerusalem -- a move never recognized by the international community -- and its half-century occupation of the West Bank and 10-year siege on Gaza, which have forced Palestinians outside of East Jerusalem and Israel to obtain Israeli permits in order to pray at Al-Aqsa.Many

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who are unable to obtain Israeli permits have never been able to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque.
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