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)
Short Url
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.


El-Sisi says Egypt will not stand idle to threat to Egyptian and Libyan security

Updated 28 min 35 sec ago

El-Sisi says Egypt will not stand idle to threat to Egyptian and Libyan security

  • Libyan tribal leaders flew on Wednesday to Cairo from the eastern city of Benghazi for a meeting with El-Sisi
  • El-Sisi said at the meeting Egypt’s main goal in Libya was to “activate the free will of the Libyan people”

CAIRO: Egypt will not stand idle in the face of any moves that pose a direct threat to Egyptian and Libyan national security, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Thursday, according to a presidency statement.
The statement also said tribal leaders meeting El-Sisi in Cairo had authorized the president and Egypt's army to intervene in their country "to protect Libyan sovereignty".
El-Sisi met mainly eastern Libyan tribesmen in a show of solidarity on Thursday, days after Libya’s eastern-based parliament urged Cairo to intervene in their country’s civil war.
The meeting reflects the growing regional stakes in Libya, divided since 2014 between areas held by the government in Tripoli, backed by Turkey, and a rival eastern administration, backed by the UAE, Russia and Egypt.
On Tuesday, the eastern-based parliament allied to commander Haftar Khalifa called for Egypt to help counter Turkish support for Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
Turkey has helped the Tripoli administration force Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) to abandon an offensive on Tripoli.


Any major escalation could risk igniting a direct conflict in Libya among the foreign powers that have already poured in weapons and fighters in violation of an arms embargo.
In response to Turkish actions, El-Sisi last month warned that Egypt’s army might enter Libya if the Tripoli government and its Turkish allies renewed an assault on Sirte, a central coastal city seen as the gateway to Libya’s main oil export terminals.
Libyan tribal leaders flew on Wednesday to Cairo from the eastern city of Benghazi, the main LNA base, for a meeting with El-Sisi entitled “Egypt and Libya, one people, one fate.” Haftar enjoys the backing of tribes mainly from east but also former LNA strongholds like Tarhouna in western Libya.
On the flight some tribesmen were chanting “El-Sisi” and “Haftar,” a video posted online showed.
El-Sisi said at the meeting Egypt’s main goal in Libya was to “activate the free will of the Libyan people,” a presidency statement said. It also published pictures showing El-Sisi sitting next to tribal leaders, all wearing masks against coronavirus.
In June El-Sisi said Egypt could act militarily in Egypt either if the House of Representatives requested this, or simply based on the UN charter of a right of self-defense.
Eastern tribes and other factions allied to Haftar have also been involved in closure of oil ports since January. The LNA says the tribes act on their own but analysts say their activity in Haftar-controlled territory is coordinated with the LNA.
Sirte is held by the LNA and the last major western city before the historic dividing line with the east, now controlled by Haftar, two regions that were united with the south at Libya’s independence in 1951.