Israel slaps four-month ban on Al-Aqsa Mosque cleric

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri leading Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa sometime in 2017. (File photo)
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Updated 05 June 2020

Israel slaps four-month ban on Al-Aqsa Mosque cleric

  • The 81-year-old cleric has been targeted on numerous occasions by Israeli authorities

AMMAN: Israel has banned a respected and senior Jerusalem cleric from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque and its compound for a further four months.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri is the imam at Islam’s third holiest mosque and is also the former mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine. The 81-year-old cleric has been targeted on numerous occasions by authorities, who accuse him of “incitement” because of his position on preserving the Islamic identity of Al-Aqsa.

Sabri said the Israelis were trying to silence him. “They don’t want anyone to say anything, no matter what it is,” he told Arab News. “They want to gag us from speaking our mind. I will consult with my lawyers and will decide our next steps.”

He rejected the idea of using Israeli courts to address the issue.

Sabri told the Palestinian news agency WAFA that Israeli police had come to his house in East Jerusalem and handed him the order, which he described as “arbitrary and illegal.”

“There is no state in the world that uses expulsion except this occupa- tion state that wants to silence and muzzle us so as not to object to its belligerent schemes,” he added.

The Islamic Waqf Council denounced what it called an illegal decision against a religious figure. It insisted that Muslims alone had the right to all 144 dunums of the mosque area, including its build- ings, yards and roads leading to it. One dunum is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters.

“No one has the right to ban any Muslim from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray and to conduct their religious duties,” the waqf state- ment added.

A Jerusalem source said there had been a police leadership decision a few months ago to be more assertive. “Sheikh Sabri is simply more vocal compared to other sheikhs,  as he has been for years, so police go after him,” the source told Arab News.

Dima Tahboub, a member of the Jordanian parliament from the Islah Bloc, said the ban showed a total lack of respect for the Hashemite custodianship and to the Jordanian Waqf department, which manages the mosque.

“The occupying (Israeli) army and the settlers continue to enter the mosque uninvited using Bab Al-Mogarbeh (an Israeli-controlled gate leading to the site), yet the staff of the waqf and Jerusalem personalities are being denied entrance,” she told Arab News. “This is a clear

violation of what is called the Wadi Araba agreement, which recognizes Jordan’s role in Jerusalem. They are trying to force a new reality in the mosque and to empty it of its people.”

A day earlier Israeli police dispersed a solidarity protest outside Sabri’s house. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld did not respond to requests for comment.


Coronavirus claims over 20,000 lives across Mideast, half in Iran

Updated 21 min 29 sec ago

Coronavirus claims over 20,000 lives across Mideast, half in Iran

  • 907,736 reported infections and 20,005 deaths from the COVID-19
  • Iran has been struggling to contain the outbreak since announcing its first cases

PARIS: The novel coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 20,000 people across the Middle East, half of them in Iran, according to an AFP tally at 1000 GMT Sunday based on official tolls.
But despite having 907,736 reported infections and 20,005 deaths from the COVID-19 illness, the Middle East has been relatively lightly hit by the virus which has killed over half a million people across the globe.
Iran, which has been struggling to contain the outbreak since announcing its first cases in February, has reported more than 12,829 deaths and 257,303 infections, according to Sunday’s official figures.
With a population of more than 80 million, Iran is the 9th worst-affected country in the world and has seen the region’s deadliest outbreak.
Infections in the Islamic republic have been on the rise since early May, prompting authorities to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces.
On Sunday the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the resurgence “truly tragic” and urged all citizens to help rein it in.
In the region covered by Iran in the north and east, Israel in the west and Yemen in the south, the other worst-hit countries are Iraq and neighboring Kuwait, as well as Saudi Arabia and war-torn Yemen.
Iraq is the second-most affected nation in the Middle East with 3,055 deaths and 75,194 infections, followed by Saudi Arabia with 2,181 deaths and 229,480 infections.
Yemen, one of the world’s poorest nations, has recorded 464 deaths and 1,380 infections, while Kuwait has confirmed 386 deaths and 54,058 infections.
Iran also ranks as the region’s worst-affect country on a per-capita basis, with 153 deaths per million — 25th worldwide — followed by Kuwait with 90 deaths per million and Saudi Arabia with 63.
According to the AFP tally, the average number of deaths in the region is 43 per million inhabitants, against a global average of around 70.
The Middle East represents around 3.5 percent of all global deaths, far behind Europe (one third), North America (one quarter) and Latin America and the Caribbean (one quarter).