Israeli soldiers silence call to prayer at historic Hebron mosque

Palestinian worshippers attend dawn prayers outside the Ibrahimi Mosque, also known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the flashpoint city of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, on May 29, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Israeli soldiers silence call to prayer at historic Hebron mosque

  • Declaration from the Palestinian Authority of an end to the COVID-19 lockdown and the opening of mosques and churches in Palestinian territories
  • Worshippers arriving for Friday prayers were met by army personnel trying to impose Israeli rules restricting religious gatherings of more than 50 people

AMMAN: Israeli military forces on Friday bowed to pressure from Jewish settlers and silenced the call to prayer at the historic Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Despite a declaration from the Palestinian Authority of an end to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown and the opening of mosques and churches in Palestinian territories, attempts were made to enforce Israeli health regulations on worshippers.

Sheikh Hafez Abu Sneneh, imam of the UNESCO-protected Hebron mosque, told Arab News: “Shortly after the muezzin, Siraj Sharif, began calling the worshippers to prayer, Jewish extremists began banging on the walls and eventually, Israeli soldiers acquiesced to their demands and forced the muezzin to stop his call for prayer midway through.”

He said worshippers arriving for Friday prayers were met by army personnel trying to impose Israeli rules restricting religious gatherings of more than 50 people in the same location.

“We follow the Palestinian Ministry of Health regulations which have allowed regular prayers in all West Bank mosques on condition that preventative health requirements of physical separation are applied. We daily disinfect the mosque and worshippers are required to wear masks and stay apart from each other,” he said.

Issa Amro, a human rights campaigner in Hebron, told Arab News that the Israeli move was in violation of the Hebron agreement and its protocols.

“The protocol that regulates prayer at the Ibrahimi Mosque is very clear that the Palestinian Islamic Waqf department is responsible for issues regarding the mosque and prayers at it,” Amro said.

However, despite efforts by Israeli soldiers to limit the number of worshippers to 50, more than 200 managed to gain entry to the mosque for noon prayers, Abu Sneneh said.

“This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Israelis have no right to change the rules and procedures at the mosque,” he added.

Israeli military officials were unavailable for comment.

Tareq Kayyal, a photojournalist with the German DPA news agency, told Arab News that Friday’s prayers had coincided with the Jewish holiday of shavuot.

Amro said: “We (Palestinians) need to be united, hold proper elections and reform the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) so we can stand up to the occupiers.”

In a separate incident, Israeli security in Jerusalem arrested Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque and a member of the Jerusalem Islamic Council, outside his home. He was seen in Facebook posts at the scene saying, “we are with Al-Aqsa and will always be defending.”

No reason has yet been given for Sabri’s arrest.

The Islamic Waqf had announced that worshippers would be invited to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque starting at dawn on Sunday.


Starvation looms for Morocco’s horses as tourism collapses

A doctor inspects a sick horse at the SPANA shelter in Marrakech. (AP)
Updated 21 min 51 sec ago

Starvation looms for Morocco’s horses as tourism collapses

  • SPANA helped carriage owners provide the basics for their horses when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Morocco

MARRAKECH: Abdenabi Nouidi sold his favorite horse for $150 to help feed the others on the team that pulls tourists in carriages through the buzzing streets of Marrakech, and he is still scared about the future for the others. The prospect of starvation looms for carriage horses and other animals normally used in Morocco’s tourist mecca., since visitors have vanished during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad, or SPANA, says hundreds of Morocco’s carriage horses and donkeys are threatened amid the collapsing tourism industry. They are among the estimated 200 million horses, donkeys, camels and elephants worldwide providing various livelihoods for over a half-billion people.
The North African kingdom closed its doors to outsiders after the first virus case was confirmed March 2. It also recently issued a ban on domestic travel to eight cities, including Marrakech.
Thousands of people in the city depend on the carriage horses for their livelihood. A single horse carriage in Marrakech supports four to five families, including owners, drivers and stable boys, driver Abdeljalil Belghaoute said.
He spoke from his carriage, waiting in a line near the famed Jemaa El-Fnaa Square, hoping that someone would want a ride.
‘If you have a shop, you can close it. If you sell goods, you store them. But imagine having ... horses who need to eat, drink and get medical care,” said Abdeljalil Nouidi.
For two decades, the four Nouidi brothers have taken tourists on sightseeing jaunts in horse-drawn carriages. Now they have empty pockets and mouths to feed, both at home and at the rundown complex outside Marrakech where drivers stable their horses.
The brothers were forced to sell seven of their horses in July. Abdenabi Nouidi’s favorite, Cocotte, was among them.
“This is not something I can easily forgive myself for,” he said, recalling a promise he made to Cocotte 15 years ago to keep him forever.
The Nouidi brothers say their horses are visibly nervous and know an abrupt change in their lives may be coming. With no carriage work, the horses’ routine has been disrupted, feed is running low and stablemates are leaving for good.
SPANA helped carriage owners provide the basics for their horses when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Morocco. It delivered three months’ worth of feed to almost 600 horses in the city and the neighboring town of Aït Ourir during the country’s lockdown.
“It became very clear to us when the lockdown was first imposed that many of Marrakech’s working animals would need our help or face a dire outcome,” said the head veterinarian at SPANA’s Marrakech center, Hassan Lamrini.

NUMBER

200m horses, donkeys, camels and elephants worldwide are providing various livelihoods for over a half-billion people.

The center, in a working-class neighborhood, is a mecca for the city’s thousands of working animals. Since 1988, the team of vets and technicians have cared for donkeys, mules and horses free of charge.
Lamrini said the center has treated an increasing number of cases of colic, an abdominal pain that causes complications in the digestive system, often due to malnutrition. Colic can be fatal.
“There is not much in the world that matters to me more than caring for these animals. They are my entire life,” said Boujamaa Ninich, who has dedicated 50 years to working with SPANA. He spends weeks on end sleeping in a little room at the center to ensure the animals are cared for after dark.
“They give so much to their owners. There is so little that we can give back,’ he said.
Marrakech was nearly at a standstill on a recent visit. The Jamma El Fnaa Square, a vast area with hawkers, food vendors and snake-dancers, was nearly deserted.
“Only tourism can save us from this catastrophe we’re facing,” said Belghaoute, the carriage driver hoping for a fare.
The Moroccan government earlier this year launched a social media campaign to encourage citizens to explore their country, but spiking numbers of COVID-19 cases led to the travel ban for eight of the country’s top tourist cities.
Authorities counted 28,500 infections and 435 deaths as of Thursday, but experts say all counts in all countries understate the true toll of the pandemic, due to limited testing, missed mild cases and other factors.
“The longer this goes on, horses and families will struggle to survive. We’re really scared by how bad this can get,” Belghaoute said.