On Wednesday Israeli police restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem for the second consecutive day while controversial demolition is underway. Only Muslim men over the age of 45 with Israeli identity cards and Muslim women are allowed to enter the Mosque compound.The already tight restrictions were strengthened on Sunday, then again on Tuesday morning before Israeli bulldozers started demolishing the bridge to the Mugrabi (Moroccan) Gate, one of the main entrances to the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Several people have been arrested for defying the restrictions, including the leadeer of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Ra’ed Salah. Detainees were taken to Masqopia detention centre in Jerusalem for interrogation.
The Israeli government had recently decided to demolish the bridge, citing the need to build a road for Jewish settlers. Ehud Olmert also recently granted permission for a synagogue to be built only 40-50 meters away from the Al Aqsa mosque, on land that was captured from Palestine in the 1967 war.
According to directors of the demolition work, the process is an excavation intending to re-build the unstable bridge.
In the Palestinian community there are concerns that Israel is using the excavation as a ploy to further their policy of ethnically cleansing Palestinians from East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the ’67 conflict.
MK Talab El-Sana (United Arab List) cautioned on Tuesday that the excavations were likely to ignite a third intifada.
Last week Jerusalem Comptroller Shulamit Rubin deemed the permit issued for the works at the Mugrabi site illegal and sent a report to all the relevant municipal bodies.
On Monday the ‘City of Peoples’ organization and city council member Peppe Alalo, sent an urgent letter telling the Attorney General Menachem Mazuz stating that the illegality of the excavation was well known by municipal bodies. However, this outcry was ignored.
Throughout the occupied territories Palestinian citizens of various creeds have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to the action Israel is taking in the Old City of Jerusalem.