Israel decided Monday to suspend construction of a new bridge near the Al-Aqsa mosque of Jerusalem, allowing the Israeli public to have their say, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski said. However, excavation continues.

However, the decision would not affect underway work, in which archeologists are trying to make sure no important remains are damaged when a walkway is built, municipal sources elaborated.

The walkway designated for construction by the Israeli authorities would replace an already collapsed bridge onto one of the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s gates, called Bab-Almagharba.

Muslims overseas and inside have expressed fears that such digging would endanger the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest shrine for Muslims, an issue Israel underestimated as the Israeli cabinet Sunday deemed the construction works necessary.

The Arab League described the digging as ‘a criminal attack’, calling on the United Nations to intervene.

Sheikh Mohammad Husseien, grand Mufti of Palestinian Territories and preacher of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, said “The only thing that satisfies us is a clear-cut Israeli decision to halt the digging once and for all and then authorize the Waqf [ Islamic Endowment Authority] to embark on the necessary repair”.

Dozens of Palestinian worshippers have been wounded, over the past few days, during protests against the digging, while the Israeli authorities in the occupied old city of Jerusalem deployed more than 2,000 police members to prevent further protests.

Also, the authorities denied access of Muslim men under the age of 45, into the holy shrine.

Israeli actions in this Muslim holy shrine have been a ‘flashpoint’ for violence in the region. In 1996, 80 Palestinians were killed when Israel opened an exit to a tunnel near the site, while in 2000 a Palestinian uprising was sparked after the then Israeli opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, made a controversial visit to the mosque compound.

From 1967 to date Israel has maintained a strict military control over the holy city of east Jerusalem, turning a blind eye to United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, whcih call for an immediate end of the occupation and acceptance of the land for peace formula.

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