Tensions run high in Jerusalem as mosques and Muslims targeted

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Palestinians hold Friday prayers in the Marwani Prayer Room, also called Solomon’s Stables, located under the southeastern corner of the raised platform, which holds the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. A fire broke out at the sacred site. (AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

Tensions run high in Jerusalem as mosques and Muslims targeted

  • Israeli officials were upset with the visit to Al-Aqsa by French President Emmanuel Macron, which was not officially coordinated with any political side

AMMAN: Tensions are running high in Jerusalem following an arson attack on a mosque, anti-Palestinian graffiti and a leading cleric given an extended ban from Al-Aqsa, senior figures have told Arab News.
Arson was suspected in the torching of a mosque in Beit Safafa and graffiti had been sprayed on a nearby wall outside the building.
The events follow the high-security commemoration of Holocaust memorial events that were attended by dignitaries and heads of state from around the world in Jerusalem.
Muslim leaders called on worshippers to attending sunrise morning prayers on Friday and at least 50,000 people turned up, causing Israeli authorities to panic.
Worshippers carried Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who had already been told to stay away from Al-Aqsa, on their shoulders and the picture of the defiant congregation bearing him aloft was published around the world.
Wasfi Kailani, executive director of the Hashemite Fund, said the escalation of the situation has caused people to worry.
“Muslims are worried about their mosque and their action reflects their loss of trust in all the attempts to quieten them down,” he told Arab News.
Sabri told Arab News he had not received any written ban to stop him entering the mosque when he entered it on Friday.
The following day Israeli soldiers appeared at his house at 2 a.m. and handed him a four-month ban from entering Al-Aqsa. The sheikh said the decision was “revenge for a picture that went around the world.”
He said he would meet his lawyers and fellow Muslim leaders to decide what would happen next.
Fadi Hidmi, the Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that Israelis had shown they did not respect holy places or faith leaders. The people of East Jerusalem were united and resilient, he added.

Muslims are worried about their mosque and their action reflects their loss of trust in all the attempts to quieten them down.

Wasfi Kailani, Hashemite Fund official

Israeli officials were upset with the visit to Al-Aqsa by French President Emmanuel Macron, which was not officially coordinated with any political side. The visit was preceded by a confrontation between Macron and Israeli police who tried to stop him from visiting the Church of St. Anne and his meeting there with Palestinian Christian leaders.
Macron visited Al-Aqsa, giving just 45-minutes notice to the head of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem Sheikh Azzam Khatib. But there was no official coordination with Israel, Palestine or Jordan.
Macron was well received at the holy site, and later met local merchants in the old city. He also visited the Western Wall.
Ziad Abu Zayyad, former minister of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian government, told Arab News that the attack on Jerusalem’s mosques and leaders had become the norm and that Israel’s anti-Palestinian attitude had become evident to the world.
Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the PASSIA think tank in Jerusalem and a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News that after 52 years of occupation, the people of Jerusalem had proved that their unity and sense of community was the strongest asset for Palestinians in the holy city.


Gulf countries announce measures to cut links with Iran as coronavirus cases rise in Middle East

Updated 30 min 52 sec ago

Gulf countries announce measures to cut links with Iran as coronavirus cases rise in Middle East

  • The UAE suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Iran
  • Kuwait has canceled celebrations for national holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday

DUBAI: Gulf countries announced new measures on Tuesday to cut links with Iran to prevent coronavirus spreading after the confirmation of 20 new cases, all of them people returning from the Islamic republic.

The UAE suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Iran after Kuwait and Bahrain announced the additional cases of COVID-19.

Over the past two days, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman have reported 29 cases of the novel coronavirus among people returning from pilgrimages to Iran, which is battling the deadliest outbreak outside China and where the death toll has reached 16.

Bahrain also announced 15 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number affected in the kingdom to 23 — including six Saudi women — after some of the people had returned from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah in the UAE.

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority “suspended all passenger flights and cargo to and from Iran starting today and for one week,” a statement carried by the official WAM news agency said, adding that the ban could be extended.

Also on Tuesday, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed tweeted that the UAE was ready to provide all forms of support to help China combat the spread of the virus.

Shortly after, the Bahraini authorities said citizens were banned from traveling to Iran “until further notice.”

In neighboring Kuwait, three new cases were recorded among Kuwaiti men who had been under quarantine after returning from Iran.

Oman, which on Monday reported its first cases of coronavirus in two Omani women who had returned from Iran, reported an additional two cases.

Muscat was making arrangements to bring back its citizens from the Islamic republic, the foreign ministry said, a day after it suspended all flights to and from Iran.

Oman also announced that it will suspend the import and export of goods from Iran from Wednesday.

The three countries have large Shiite Muslim populations who frequently travel to Iran to visit holy shrines.

The UAE has already announced 13 coronavirus cases, all foreigners, including an Iranian couple who had traveled from Iran.

Kuwait has canceled celebrations for national holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday and also scrapped all sports events to counter the spread of the disease.