The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, slammed the Israeli digging near the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He considers it part of an Israeli plan to control the mosque and its surrounding areas.Sheikh Sabri stated that Israel claimed that it stopped the digging, but on the ground it is continuing with its plans.  

In an interview with Quds Press, Sheikh Sabri said that Israel is misleading the world through the extensive media campaign in which it claims that it is still ‘weighing up’ the legality of the digging process.

He added that the digging is being carried out in two parallel parts; first removing the sand hill, and secondly constructing the bridge as planned by the Jerusalem Municipality.

“Israel is misleading the world, it withdrew the huge bulldozers that were digging for three days”, he stated, “and now, small and light machines are going on with the digging”.

Sheikh Sabri also said that he rejects talks with the Jerusalem municipality regarding the issue, since Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, and any talks with the municipality means that the Islamic Waqf Department approves the Israeli project.

The Municipality claimed to be holding talks with some Islamic Institutions and Sheikhs in Jerusalem and that it coordinated the digging near Al Mughrabi Gate with them. But the institutions and the Sheikhs released an official statement that was distributed to the press and denied the Israeli claims.

Sheikh Sabri also said that the digging aims to change the geography of the area, and is intended to expose the western wall. He considered this plan as the first stage of a wider Israeli plan that aims at controlling the Western Wall which is located inside the wall of the Al Aqsa Mosque.

“They want to fully control the Mosque and the whole area around it”, he stated.

Sheikh Sabri added that leaders of the Arab World will be held responsible for any harm that might occur to the mosque, if they remain idle.

He called for a wider media campaign in the Arab World to expose the Israeli plans and the threats these plans pose to the mosque.

“Israel is heavily supported by the United States and several western countries”. Sabri added, “But we are living under Israeli occupation, we need countries and nations to support us”.

Also, Sabri considered the Arab response to the digging to be “less than expected”, and said that they have no excuse, since everybody knows what Israel is doing.

He called on the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Arab residents of Israel to head to the mosque next Friday to pray there, and if they were barred from entering the mosque, they should pray near the mosque or at any place they were stopped at.