Al-Aqsa mosque will be closed from Friday as cases of COVID-19 increase.
Al-Aqsa mosque compound will be closed Friday following an increase in COVID-19 incidents, said authorities on Wednesday. With the virus cases on the rise in Israel and the Palestinian territories, an emergency briefing was convened with health officials by the Waqf authority.
Waqf representatives voted to ‘suspend the admission of worshippers for a total of three weeks from Friday afternoon (September 18).’ “In order to protect their health and welfare, we hope that people will recognise this practise,” Waqf member Hatem Abdel Qader told AFP. The closure coincides with Israel’s introduction of a three-week lockdown which controls the compound’s entrances.
The call to prayer will continue to ring out throughout the Old City of Jerusalem, Qader said, while Waqf workers will be allowed to pray at the site. Jordan is the custodian of the complex, known by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, or Sacred Shrine, and by Jews as the Temple Mount.
It is only the second time since Israel invaded east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War that the Waqf has agreed to close the complex. Israel has previously blocked entry to the flashpoint site, a focal point of Palestinian statehood ambitions. At the height of the pandemic in March, when widespread closures upended religious life in a way not seen for decades, the Waqf closed the property.
Nearly 167,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed by Israeli officials, with 1,147 deaths. Any 214 people have died from the virus in the occupied West Bank, and Palestinian officials have reported more than 30.200 cases.