30,000 Muslims pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque while sticking to social distancing

Muslim worshippers observe social distancing as they pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on June 26, 2020. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 27 June 2020

30,000 Muslims pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque while sticking to social distancing

  • Authorities fear virus spread, rising cases

AMMAN, Jordan: More than 30,000 Muslims attended Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque while respecting stricter health conditions imposed by the Jerusalem Waqf Department.

Sheikh Azzam Khatib, director general of the Jordanian Waqf Department in Jerusalem, said that the stricter conditions were brought in because of the uptick in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Jerusalem and in other Palestinian towns.

“We issued numerous statements, videos and other announcements telling worshippers that they must bring their own prayer mat and mask and that we will implement a strict physical separation,” he told Arab News.

Khatib said that the Health Ministry’s announcement of 72 coronavirus cases in the Jerusalem area was very disturbing. “We were worried seeing the numbers of those contracting the virus while many events, including weddings and other public gatherings, were being held without any adherence to basic anti-COVID-19 health requirements.”

He added that the Jerusalem Waqf did not want to be held responsible for the spread of the deadly disease.

“We take our responsibilities seriously and we don’t want to be blamed for facilitating the spread of the virus. We also don’t want to give an excuse to the Israelis to prevent worshippers from accessing the mosque again.”

Khalil Assali, a member of the Jerusalem Waqf Council, said that the waqf director and staff had no choice but to strictly follow the Health Ministry’s requirements.

“We noticed an increase in visits to pray in Al-Aqsa from Palestinian citizens of Israel and we have been worried about the potential of the spread of the virus, especially during the entry and exit of worshippers when they crowd around the gates and alleys,” he told Arab News.

Waqf staff as well as volunteers were deployed all over the Haram Al-Sharif, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to ensure strict adherence to the waqf department’s orders.

Wedding parties have been banned in all governorates across the West Bank, the Palestinian government said last Tuesday, because the number of infections were rising. 

“Due to the increase in the number of coronavirus infections during the past 24 hours and in order to avoid the spread of the epidemic ... With regret, the government has decided to ban wedding celebrations in all governorates in order to keep you and your community safe from any harm,” it said. 

The Palestinian government ended a two-month lockdown on May 25, allowing all sectors to reopen.


Iraqis mourn expert on armed groups killed by unknown gunmen

Updated 07 July 2020

Iraqis mourn expert on armed groups killed by unknown gunmen

  • Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on Hisham Al-Hashimi outside his home in the Zeyouneh area of Baghdad
  • Al-Hashimi was a well-connected security analyst

BAGHDAD: Iraqi mourners and relatives on Tuesday carried the body of a respected analyst shot and killed the previous night in Baghdad after receiving threats from Iran-backed militias. Many Iraqis expressed their shock over the slaying.
Hisham Al-Hashimi, 47, was gunned down on Monday night outside his home in Baghdad’s Zeyouneh neighborhood. His casket, draped in the Iraqi flag, was taken to his family home before being driven to the burial site.
Al-Hashimi, a leading expert on Daesh and other militant organization, was a regular fixture on Iraqi television and his expertise was often sought by government officials, journalists and researchers.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the killing, which comes weeks after he confided to close friends that he had received threats from militia groups. The slaying also coincides with a spate of rocket attacks targeting US interests that has been blamed on Iran-backed armed groups.
Authorities launched a raid last week in Baghdad, in which they detained 14 members of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah group, suspected of orchestrating the attacks. All but one detainees were released days later.
Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said Iraqi security forces would “spare no effort” in pursuing Al-Hashimi’s killers.

Hours after Al-Hashimi’s killing, authorities fired the top police officer for Zeyouneh and launched an investigation into his activities, according to an order from the prime minister’s office, seen by The Associated Press.
Condemnations from Iraqi officials poured in as shock reverberated across the country at the news of Al-Hashimi’s killing.

Nechirvan Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, said “authorities must find the perpetrators of this terror act and bring them to justice,” in a tweet on Tuesday.