Monday, September 16, 2019

Worship and reduced Palestinian mobility during Jewish and Christian holidays


By J.J. Rhies - April 24, 2019
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Protected by Israeli police and military forces, Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on April 23, Jordan News Agency reported.

 

It was the third day in a row that settlers marched onto the site, which, located in East Jerusalem and including Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, is the third holiest place in Islam.

 

Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, general director of the Jerusalem Endowment and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs Department, told Jordan News Agency the settlers were there to celebrate Passover, an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the liberation of enslaved Jews in Egypt.  

 

The day before, some 170 settlers overtook the compound, in addition to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel, according to Ma’an News Agency.

 

A 1967 agreement between Israel and Jordan, which is the custodian of the compound, allows Israelis to visit the grounds but prevents non-Muslim worship there.

 

Ma’an said witnesses claimed Israeli settlers were performing religious ceremonies on the site.

 

The compound has been a consistent flashpoint since 2003 when the Bab al-Rahmeh gate to the compound was originally closed.

 

Bab al-Rahmeh has seen a spate of openings and closures since then, prompting outrage from Palestinian worshippers.

 

Limited movement for Palestinians amid holidays

 

Also on April 23, Israeli settlers stormed an archaeological site in Sabastiya, a village 12 kilometres west of Nablus, in the occupied West Bank.

 

Israeli military forces implemented three checkpoints around the village, fully preventing Palestinians from entering either Sabastiya or the archaeological site, which is an Israel-claimed national park that has 3,000-year-old ruins.

 

Muhammad Azem, mayor of Sabastiya, was told that the checkpoints were enacted due to Passover celebrations, Ma’an News Agency said.

 

Over the weekend, Israel denied holiday permits to scores of Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip who were hoping to celebrate Easter and Palm Sunday at holy sites or with relatives in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

 

200 permits were issued, but only to those 55-years-old and older who were travelling to Jordan, according to Ma’an News Agency.

 

Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, told Ma’an that Israel’s denial of permits infringed on Gazans’ rights of mobility and worship.

 

“Imposing such sweeping restrictions on movement cannot be justified by security needs,” the group noted.

 

Palestinian Christians from Gaza were also prevented from travelling to holy sites for Good Friday ceremonies, Middle East Monitor said.

 

Israel announced last week that West Bank and Gaza Strip checkpoints would be closed for Passover, reported the Times of Israel. The closure began on Friday, April 19, and will be lifted on Saturday, April 27.

 

However, many checkpoints have remained open despite the announcement, but face the risk of random closures.

 

Approximately 26,000 Palestinians cross Qalandiya, the primary checkpoint between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, every day for work.

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