Court overturns police order barring three Jews from holy site after praying there in violation of status quo.
An Israeli lower court has overturned a police order barring three Jews from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque after they prayed there in violation of agreements with Muslim authorities, and questioned the legal basis of such enforcement.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, located in the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem and home to Islam’s third holiest site, is referred to by Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. According to an agreement in force since 1967, non-Muslims may enter the site during visiting hours, but may not pray there.
Jews believe that the 35-acre site was once the site of the Biblical Jewish temples.
Israel allows Jews to visit on condition that they refrain from religious rites. But the increasing number of such visits, including during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which coincided with the Jewish holiday of Passover this year, has fueled fears among Palestinians, who see it as an Israeli attempt to change the holy site’s sensitive status quo.
“A Heavy Attack”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement calling Sunday’s ruling “a grave attack on the historical status quo… and a blatant challenge to international law.”
The Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled in favor of three applicants who had been banned from the Old City for 15 days for prostrating and singing a key Jewish prayer on the premises. The verdict quoted the police as saying these actions had disrupted the duties of their officers and threatened public order.
In overturning the ban, Judge Zion Saharai said that while he had no intention of interfering with local law enforcement, “the applicants’ conduct did not raise concerns of harm to national security, public safety or security.” of the individual gives”.
The police had no comment. Eran Schwarz, a lawyer whose firm represented the applicants, said he expected police to appeal the verdict. Magistrate’s courts can be set aside by district courts, with the Supreme Court of Israel as the final appeal.
The ruling came a week before far-right Israelis were scheduled to hold an annual flag march through the Old City to mark their conquest by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War. Israel later annexed occupied East Jerusalem, a move unrecognized by most of the international community. The event is opposed by Palestinians who want the Old City and other parts of occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for future state.
Hamas, a Palestinian group that waged a Gaza war with Israel last year fueled in part by tensions in occupied East Jerusalem, described the flag march’s planned route through a Muslim quarter of the Old City as “putting fuel on the fire.”
“I warn the enemy against committing such crimes,” Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised address.
Jordan, a US-backed Israeli security partner who acts as Al-Aqsa’s administrator, has also expressed concern about the Jewish visits to the compound.