Israel bans top Palestinian Waqf officials from Al-Aqsa

English News

4 Mar 2019: Move follows Waqf Council’s decision to defy a 16-year Israeli ban and reopen the Bab al-Rahma building in Al-Aqsa.

Police in Israel have extended bans on top Palestinian officials who oversee Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa compound from entering the holy site, in a move analysts warned could further escalate tensions.

The decision on Sunday came weeks after the Islamic Waqf Council, a religious body appointed by Jordan to oversee the Al-Aqsa compound, defied a 16-year Israeli ban on the Bab al-Rahma building within the site and reopened it to Muslim worshippers.

Following the council’s decision on February 14, its head Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab and his deputy, Sheikh Najeh Bkerat, were briefly detained and hit with a one-week ban. Israeli police extended the bans on Sunday by 40 days for Salhab and four months for Bkerat, a spokesman for the Waqf Council told Anadolu news agency.

Salhab told local media that police informed him the ban was due to his role in opening Bab al-Rahma.

Israeli authorities had shut down Bab al-Rahma in 2003, claiming the site was being used by members of the outlawed Islamic Movement in Israel Northern Branch for political activities, an allegation the Waqf Council denies.

Since its reopening, some 100 Palestinian activists and religious figures have been detained “in an effort to put an end to Palestinian defiance of Israeli orders”, according to Wafa, a Palestinian news agency

Among them were Arafat Naib, a guard at the Al-Aqsa compound, who was banned from entering the site for six months, and Nasser Qous, a Fatah party official in Jerusalem, who was also barred for 40 days.

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