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.


Israel halts fuel shipments to Gaza over fire balloon launches

Updated 6 min 48 sec ago

Israel halts fuel shipments to Gaza over fire balloon launches

  • Palestinians launched the balloons laden with incendiary material in a bid to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of the Strip and allow new economic projects
  • Israel had earlier retaliated by closing the Strip’s main commercial crossing and striking Hamas military facilities
TEL AVIV/GAZA: Israel on Thursday said it will stop shipments of fuel into Gaza in response to Palestinians in the enclave launching incendiary balloons that have torched tracts of farmland on the Israeli frontier.
Palestinians in Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza in recent days have launched dozens of helium balloons laden with incendiary material in a bid to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of the Strip and allow new economic projects.
Israel, which cites security threats from Hamas for its land and naval blockade, had earlier retaliated by closing the Strip’s main commercial crossing and striking Hamas military facilities with warplanes, attack helicopters and tanks.
Escalating the measures on Thursday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered a halt to fuel imports into Gaza “in light of the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Strip” toward Israel, the defense ministry said in a statement.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the measure a “grave act of aggression” that “aims to worsen the crisis of our people in the blockaded Strip.” The Mediterranean coastal enclave relies on Israel for most of its fuel and gas.
The halt in fuel could shut down Gaza’s sole power plant and lead to further electricity cuts for households and businesses, according to Mohammad Thabet, an official with Gaza’s main power distribution company.
Palestinians in Gaza currently get six hours of electricity followed by a 10 hour power cut.
A cease-fire deal brokered last year by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations following a deadly surge in violence was to see Israel allow new development projects, including an industrial zone and a hospital.
Hamas has accused Israel of not fully complying with those understandings. Israel, which deems Hamas a terrorist organization, shuns direct negotiations and has never publicly acknowledged the deal.
On Wednesday, Israel reduced the area where it permits Palestinians to fish from 15 miles (24 km) to eight miles (13 km), calling it a response to the balloon launches.