Israeli court ruling on major holy site angers Palestinians

The ruling by an Israeli court has been called a 'clear provocation' for Muslims worldwide

A ruling by a local Israeli court in favour of a Jewish man who prayed at Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem has angered Muslim authorities.

On Thursday, they called the ruling a breach of the fragile status quo governing the flashpoint holy site.

Al Aqsa Mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam and a holy site for Jews.

It is an emotional centre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and tension there helped to ignite the 11-day Gaza war in May. Under informal understandings, Jews are not allowed to pray there.

The ruling by a Jerusalem magistrate court concerned a Jewish man who had been barred from the site for 15 days after Israeli police caught him praying there.

The court lifted the ban several days early, saying: “This activity by itself is not enough to violate the police instructions.”

Magistrate courts are the lowest level of the Israeli judiciary. Under a longstanding but informal arrangement known as the status quo, Jews are allowed to visit the site but not pray there.

The agreement has broken down in recent years as large groups of Jews, including hard-line religious nationalists, have regularly visited and prayed at the site.

The Israeli government says it is committed to maintaining the status quo.

The Palestinians and neighbouring Jordan, which serves as the custodian of the holy site, fear that Israel plans to eventually take over the compound or partition it, as it did with a holy site in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Islamic endowment that maintains Al Aqsa called the ruling a “flagrant violation” of the compound’s sanctity and a “clear provocation” for Muslims worldwide.

Friday prayers at the mosque are regularly attended by tens of thousands of Palestinians, and are sometimes followed by protests and clashes with Israeli police.

A provocative visit by a right-wing Israeli politician in 2000 helped to ignite the Second Intifada, or uprising.

Israel captured East Jerusalem – including the Old City and its holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims – in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognised by most of the international community.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. The city’s status has been among the most divisive issues in decades of failed peace efforts.

Updated: October 7th 2021, 10:11 PM