Palestinian men pray as Israeli occupation forces watch outside Al Haram Al Sharif in occupied Jerusalem. Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to expand its control over the Muslim holy site. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: Egypt’s Al Azhar, Sunni Islam’s influential institution, has condemned Israel’s recent restrictions at Al Haram Al Sharif in occupied Jerusalem, calling them “irresponsible and provocative” steps.

“All measures taken by the occupation authorities at Al Haram Al Sharif in occupied Jerusalem are null and void and are not based on any humanitarian or civilised principle,” Al Azhar said in a statement released following a meeting led by the Cairo-based institution’s head Shaikh Ahmad Al Tayyeb on Tuesday.

Last week, Israel set up metal detectors outside Al Haram Al Sharif, Islam’s third holiest site, which houses the Al Aqsa Mosque, following an attack that killed two Israeli police officers within the compound.

But in response to massive Palestinian protests, Israel on Tuesday removed the metal detectors, saying it would install “new technologies”, including sophisticated surveillance cameras at the site over the next six months. Palestinians have rejected the new steps and continued to hold mass prayers outside the mosque in protest.

Al Azhar said that on behalf of around 1.7 billion Muslims around the world, it rejects these “irresponsible and provocative” acts.

The prestigious institution also warned the world on staying silent over what it branded as “these aggressive practices that reopen doors for religious wars”.

Al Azhar said it would hold an international conference on Israel-occupied Jerusalem in late September. “The conference will look into important decisions on the Palestinian cause and will be preceded by contacts with institutions concerned,” Al Azhar said without further details.

“Occupied Jerusalem and Al Haram Al Sharif will remain inside Muslims’ hearts and their prime cause.”

Israel’s restrictions at Al Haram Al Sharif have infuriated Muslims across the world, triggering street protests.

Arab Foreign Ministers are due to meet in Cairo on Thursday for emergency talks on the crisis.

Muslims have accused Israel of seeking to change the long-standing status quo of Al Haram Al Sharif and Judaise the holy city of occupied Jerusalem.