RAMALLAH: Officials at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem have raised deep concerns over Israeli excavation work at the holy site which they claim has caused cracks and other damage to the building’s structure.
And Azzam Al-Khatib, director general of the city’s Islamic Awqaf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs department, has warned that the mosque could be in danger of collapse if the digging continued at its current intensity.
The Israelis have been carrying out excavations beneath Islam’s third-holiest site for a number of weeks which officials say has led to cracks appearing and stones being dislodged from walls and ceilings.
Al-Khatib said: “There are dangerous and unknown excavations, and no one knows what they are and what their goals are. We see the removal of large quantities of dust and hear the sounds of digging equipment and the breaking of stones.
“The vibrations led to the fall of several stones from the mosque’s ceilings in the southern prayer halls.
“I asked the Israeli police to allow specialized engineers and technicians from our department to find out what is going on and what is happening, and for a week we have been talking to the Israeli police about these excavations, which are taking place day and night, and they just ignore our request,” he added.
Al-Khatib noted that similar activities had taken place in the past but digging work had been stepped up in recent weeks.
He said: “We are concerned about the tunnels being dug that may lead to the collapse of the Al-Aqsa. So, we informed the Jordanian Royal Court, the Jordanian Ministry of the Islamic Awqaf, the Jordanian ambassador, and most importantly, we appealed to (Jordan’s) King Abdullah, custodian of the holy sites, to intervene in this issue.
“The Islamic Awqaf does not want friction but is deeply concerned about surprises for Al-Aqsa and stability in the region.
“I asked the Israeli police to allow us to repair the wall from which stones came off, and which might be in danger of collapsing, but they refused.
“Neither the Waqf, nor UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) knows what is happening. We are entrusted with Al-Aqsa and carrying out our mission. What is happening is a dangerous matter that worries and frightens us,” Al-Khatib added.
Technical sources in the Islamic Awqaf told Arab News that a committee of engineers and experts affiliated with the department had been set up to look into what was happening and report back to officials.