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)
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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.


Lebanese patriarch warns of crisis without a government after Adib steps down

Updated 27 September 2020

Lebanese patriarch warns of crisis without a government after Adib steps down

  • Al-Rai said Adib’s resignation had ‘disappointed citizens, especially the youth’
  • Frustration at Adib’s failure to form government was voiced by Lebanon’s religious communities

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric said on Sunday the nation faced “multiple dangers” that would be hard to weather without a government, speaking a day after the prime minister-designate quit following his failed bid to form a cabinet.
Mustapha Adib stepped down on Saturday after hitting a roadblock over how to make appointments in the sectarian system, striking a blow to a French initiative that aimed to haul the nation out of its deepest crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who had pressed Lebanon’s fractious politicians to reach a consensus so that Adib was named on Aug. 31, is to due to speak about the crisis in a news conference in Paris later on Sunday.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, Lebanon’s biggest Christian community, said Adib’s resignation had “disappointed citizens, especially the youth, who were betting on the start of change in the political class.”
Many top politicians, both Christian and Muslim, have held sway for years or even decades. Some are former warlords.
Rai said Lebanon now had to navigate “multiple dangers” without a government at the helm.
Rai’s comments were echoed on the streets of Beirut, where mass protests erupted in 2019 as years of mismanagement, corruption and mounting debts finally led to economic collapse, paralysing banks and sending the currency into freefall.
“There needs to be fundamental change. We need new people. We need new blood,” said 24-year-old Hassan Amer, serving coffee from a roadside cafe in the capital, which was hammered by a huge port blast on Aug. 4 that killed almost 200 people.
In nearby streets, walls were still plastered with graffiti from the protests, including the popular call for sweeping out the old guard: “All of them means all of them.”
Frustration at the failure of Adib, a Sunni Muslim, to form a government was voiced by many across Lebanon’s religious communities. Prime ministers under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system must be Sunnis.
A senior Shiite Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan, said on Saturday Adib’s resignation as the economy collapsed could “be described as a disaster,” calling for national unity to deliver reforms, the state news agency reported.
The cabinet formation effort stumbled after Lebanon’s two main Shiite groups, Amal and the heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah, demanded they name several ministers, including finance, a key role as the nation draws up a rescue plan.
Saad Al-Hariri, a former prime minister and leading Sunni politician, said in a statement he would not be involved in naming any new premier and said the French plan was “the last and only opportunity to halt Lebanon’s collapse.”
A French roadmap laid out a reform program for a new government to help trigger billions of dollars of international aid.