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Israeli destruction of Al Aqsa hampers probe

King Abdullah of Jordan is expected to visit Palestine on Monday, in the first visit since 2012

Gulf News

Ramallah: A probe into the Israeli theft of documents and manuscripts from Al Aqsa Mosque has been hampered by the “complete destruction” the occupation forces left behind when they closed off the holy site on July 14, says Shaikh Ekrima Sabri, who heads the Supreme Islamic Council of Occupied Jerusalem.

“Copies of those documents are kept in Jordan, and the committee will compare the lists of documents to account for any stolen items,” he told Gulf News.

The committee, made up of four-specialised teams, are due to release their findings in two weeks time.

Palestinians view the Israeli seizure of the documents as a move by Israeli authorities to obtain information about the owners of properties in the occupied Old City — the documents include details of endowments.

Tiles in the mosque had been removed and then replaced, by Israeli authorities, the team discovered.

The committee is also determining whether Israel planted bugs and cameras.

The closure of the holy site, was implemented under the pretext of security, but Palestinians say it was just a cover up in order to steal the documents — it was the first time since Israel occupied Jerusalem in 1967, that the Al Haram Al Sharif had been completely evacuated and the Waqf Department also kicked out.

The Waqf Deparment, which falls under the authority of the Jordanian government, is the official custodian of the Muslim Holy Site after Israel occupied Jerusalem.

King Abdullah is expected to visit Palestine on Monday — the first visit since December 2012.

On July 14, following a shoot-out around Al Haram Al Sharif, occupation forces closed off the holy shrine and prevented Muslims from performing Friday prayers there for the first time since the occupation of Jerusalem. Two days later, the occupation reopened the holy site but Muslim worshippers were outraged to find they had to enter their holy shrine through metal detectors.

Palestinians refused to enter Al Haram Al Sharif and staged peaceful street demonstrations and held daily prayers outside Al Haram Al Sharif in the following days.

Under massive pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to remove the metal detectors and smart cameras the occupation forces had installed at the entrances of the site.

Jews are allowed to visit Al Haram Al Sharif, but not perform religious rituals there, according to a long-standing status quo agreement. Attempts by Israel’s regime to change the status quo have led to escalating violence and tensions which have claimed the lives of over 210 Palestinians and 33 Israelis.

Israel’s regime took over Al Haram Al Sharif and the entire eastern part of Jerusalem and annexed it during the 1967 Middle East war, but left the Jordanian Waqf Department to administer and run the Muslim holy sites in a historic status quo agreement which governs access to the holy shrine.

Ongoing incursions by Jews on Al Haram Al Sharif premises have been the largest instigator of violence since last year. Palestinians say the Israeli regime is encouraging its citizens to violate the status quo agreement in an effort to change the facts on the ground and erase all Palestinian and Muslim identity from occupied Jerusalem.

Al Haram Al Sharif is built on top of the ancient remnants of the Temple Mount, a site sacred in Judaism, but was destroyed in the 4th century by the Romans, during their rule.

Al Haram Al Sharif site houses both Al Aqsa Mosque which was originally commissioned to be built under Omar, the second Caliph in Islam in the 7th century, and the Dome of the Rock which houses the rock from which Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) ascended to heaven, according to Islamic teachings.

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