Israel reopens Al-Aqsa mosque after Arab, int’l criticism

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Israel announced that it has re-opened the holy mosque of Al-Aqsa in East Jerusalem late on Thursday after international and Arab criticism over its closure.

Israel had closed the compound in the wake of tension over the shooting of Rabbi Yehuda Glick after a meeting where he urged greater Jewish access to the site. Israeli police later killed a Palestinian suspected of shooting Glick.

“It was decided to restore [the compound] to normal,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told the AFP news agency.

But she said Muslim worshippers over 50 would be only allowed to enter claiming fear of unrest at Friday prayers.

Samri also said the decision remained subject to security developments.

The Thursday closure drew strong condemnation from the Palestinians and Arabs.  Even the US, Israel’s strong ally, called on Israel to back down from its decision.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said the unprecedented closure was tantamount to a “declaration of war”, vowing to take all legal measures to hold “Israel accountable and to stop these ongoing attacks.”

Egypt’s Azhar, the world’s highest Sunni learning seat, called the closure “barbaric” and that it instigates religious conflicts.

Jordan, whose religious authorities are responsible for administering Al-Aqsa, warned that the closure runs counter to its peace treaty with Israel, pan-Arabiya television reported.

The country’s Islamic Affairs Minister Hayel Daoud called on the international community to help put pressure on Israel to lift what he called “the terrorist blockade” on the compound, according to the state news agency Petra.

East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the 1967 war and has been occupied since.

The Al-Aqsa compound is the scene of frequent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.

Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Jordan-run Organisation for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, said the holy site had never been closed since Israel occupied the city in 1967.