RAMALLAH, July 5, 2015 (WAFA) – At least 184 violations by Israeli authorities against the holy sites in East Jerusalem and Hebron were reported in the recent two months, Sunday reported Yousef Id’ies, Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs.
While violations in Jerusalem mainly involved provocative visits by extremist Jewish settlers, those in Hebron included a forcible shutdown of a major gate and unsubstantiated prevention of the call for prayer.
Other violations in Jerusalem also included the approval of the creation of a Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem’s Old City neighborhood, in addition to approving the construction of a museum at the site of Ma’man Allah cemetery near al-Aqsa Mosque.
Last April, Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage warned of Israeli bids advised by the so-called Temple Mount groups to officially turn the historical Tankaziya School, located within al-Aqsa Mosque compound, into a Jewish synagogue. The school was turned into a synagogue for enlisted soldiers and a military site for the Israel Border Police gendarmerie in 1969.
Chairman of Al-Aqsa Foundation, Amir al-Khatib, has earlier warned of the serious repercussions of such a sacrilegious move.
“What should we understand of Israel’s frequent proposals and bids turning part of al-Aqsa Mosque into a Jewish synagogue after it was misappropriated by the Israeli occupation and transformed into a military site and, at times, a synagogue?” al-Khatib questioned.
Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam, has been the center of Palestinians-Israeli conflict. Jews refer to the site as the “Temple Mount” and organize provocative visits there almost on daily basis.
The site has witnessed recurrent clashes in recent years between Muslim worshipers and Israeli police units, most frequently due to provocative visits by Jewish extremists who believe the Mosque should be replaced with a Jewish temple.
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(Ma’an) — Authorities in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba have recently converted an historic mosque into an Islamic museum despite the fact that 10,000 local Muslims still have nowhere to pray, locals said.
Locals told Ma’an that an exhibit showcasing a collection of Muslim prayer rugs was recently opened in the building that was formerly the Great Mosque of Beersheba, which was once used regularly as a mosque before the 1948 expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from what became Israel.
The exhibit, which locals say has no Arab or Muslim member on the technical supervisory team, will continue until June 2015.
The move comes after decades of protest from the area’s 10,000-strong Muslim Palestinian community, composed primarily of local Bedouins whose ancestors survived the Israeli expulsions as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel who have moved to the city from other parts of the country.
Representatives of the community have long petitioned Israeli authorities to allow them to open the mosque for daily prayers or at least once a week for Friday prayers.
However, the demands have been repeatedly rejected, and in 2011 the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a request for it to open as well, allowing the building to be transformed into a museum focusing on Islam.
The irony is not lost on local Palestinian Muslims, who have long complained that Israeli authorities neglect Palestinian heritage and frequently appropriate Palestinian symbols and architecture.
The Great Mosque of Beersheba was built in 1906 during the Ottoman era through donations collected from the Bedouin residents of the Negev.
It remained an active mosque until the Israelis occupied the city in 1948 and turned it into a detention center and headquarters for a magistrate court, following the expulsion of Beersheba’s approximately 6,000 Palestinian residents, mostly to Gaza.
Thousands of Jewish immigrants were subsequently brought in to populate the city, while the Palestinian refugees were never allowed to return, despite mostly living only kilometers away.
In 1953, the Israeli authorities turned a portion of the mosque into a museum, which was recognized in 1987 by the Israeli department of archeology as the Negev Museum.
However, in 1992, the museum was shut down because the building had become vulnerable. It has been retrofitted recently, however, paving the way for its reuse.
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Jewish settlers are notching up property gains in the heart of East Jerusalem through a series of shady deals involving frontmen or straw companies.
The process by which such properties are acquired is shrouded in mystery, with the new Jewish occupants often moving in under the cover of darkness to avoid a major confrontation with residents.
The latest controversial acquisitions took place in Silwan, a densely populated Palestinian neighborhood on a steep hillside flanking the southern walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
In the past three weeks, hardline settlers have moved into 35 apartments there, sparking anger and consternation among Palestinians who vehemently oppose such moves as a hostile attempt to Judaize Silwan.
Some were allegedly acquired fraudulently, and others legally.
Jewish groups buying up property in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods is an explosive political issue because it touches on the future of East Jerusalem, which the international community sees as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The groups are looking to establish a contiguous Jewish presence in the area, thereby preventing any future division of the Holy City under a peace deal with the Palestinians.
‘We didn’t know’
One of the structures taken over in Silwan this week was a three-story building owned by the Rajabi family, which had been looking to sell the property and its adjoining land.
Because the neighborhood is very close to the Old City and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam, the family was looking for a Palestinian buyer.
One day, a man whose family is known for its commitment to the Palestinian cause approached them.
“He said he wanted to buy it for his cousin who lives in Dubai,” Zuheir al-Rajabi said, explaining how they agreed to sell it for 450,000 Jordanian dinars ($635,000).
Today he realizes it was a mistake.
“I hate myself for selling, people are accusing us of knowingly selling” to the settlers, he said.
On Tuesday, his family paid for an advertisement in the main Palestinian newspaper showing the purchase agreement with the name of the buyer and insisting they had no knowledge of the true nature of the sale.
“We should have been more careful but we cannot take it back. The settlers are like a cancer which spreads through the body until it dies,” Rajabi said.
Selling land to Israeli settlers is viewed as treason by the Palestinians and carries a penalty of life imprisonment with heavy labor. There have even been cases in which the perpetrators have been killed.
Frontmen, straw companies
Khalil Tufakji, a Palestinian cartographer, says rightwing groups use a variety of methods to obtain property in East Jerusalem.
“Either they use the Israeli ‘absentee property’ law or they do it through agents,” he said, referring to legislation adopted in 1950 which allows the confiscation of land owned by Palestinians who fled or were forced out during the 1948 war.
The agents are Palestinian straw men who carry out the purchase on behalf of rightwing groups in a bid to grant a legitimacy to the transaction before the courts, he said.
“There are more and more of these agents who are operating in East Jerusalem and in areas close to the Green Line,” said Ahmed Ruweidi, adviser on Jerusalem affairs to President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Green Line is viewed by the international community as the de facto border between Israel and Palestine.
Ruweidi said there was a growing wave of public anger against such middlemen, who are understood to receive huge sums of money for their services.
“There is huge public pressure against such agents with people waging campaigns on social media and spreading their names and photos,” he said.
Other transactions are done through little-known foreign firms, which have been denounced by the Palestinians as shell companies.
But their methods of operation are a closely guarded secret.
Avi Segal, an attorney who represents international companies that invest in Jerusalem real estate, refused to divulge methods of operation for purchasing property for Jewish groups in East Jerusalem.
“All of the deals in the areas of City of David and Shiloah village were carried out legally and legitimately, that’s it,” he said, using the Hebrew name for two parts of Silwan where the settlers moved in.
Under terms of the so-called Clinton parameters for a political settlement in Jerusalem, the eastern part of the city would be divided along ethnic lines, with Israel having sovereignty over Jewish settlements, and the Palestinians gaining sovereignty over Palestinian neighborhoods.
Increasing Jewish presence in densely populated Palestinian areas would stack the balance in Israel’s favor, Tufakji said.
Today, around 500 settlers live in Silwan among a population of 45,000 and the recent acquisitions have triggered a flood of protest among the Palestinians as well as from abroad.
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The settlers then set fire to part of the mosque before being chased away by Palestinian villagers.
Locals managed to extinguish the fire and prevent it from burning down the whole mosque.
In Jan. 2014, settlers torched a mosque in Salfit and sprayed “Arabs out!” on the building.
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RAMALLAH, October 8, 2014 (WAFA) – President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday warned the Israeli government of the repercussions of its actions which could turn the current political conflict into a religious one, stressing that the Palestinian people will not accept the latest Israeli measures taken against al-Aqsa Mosque.
“We all realize, and also the world realizes, the seriousness of using religion in political conflicts and transforming them into religious ones,” said Abbas in a press statement Wednesday, adding: “We should all see what is happening around us, and Israel should realize that such steps are marred by dangers against it and us.”
“Every day, we see those [Jewish extremists] attempting to enter al-Aqsa by all means so as to compel [us] to accept what they want as a de facto status; to impose the temporal and spatial division of the Mosque, under the pretext that it has [rights] in it.”
Earlier Wednesday, dozens of Palestinians were injured and several others were arrested after Israeli Police raided al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, amid calls by Jewish fanatics to organize visits to the mosque marking the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
Israeli police officers clashed with worshipers – who gathered near the mosque since last night to repel any entrance by settlers into the mosque – firing tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets and injuring many of them. The worshipers responded by pelting stones towards the police.
In a related development, Abbas noted to the arbitrary Israeli measures in Ibrahimi Mosque (Cape of the Patriarchs) in Hebron, where Palestinians are almost daily banned from entering it for prayers.
He highlighted that, if such practices continue, the Palestinian leadership will seek international action at the United Nations and its Security Council to put an end to these practices.
“We say to the world and to the U.S. that these acts do not support the advent of peace, but rather render more complications [on the way] of the peace process,” he stressed.
“Soon, we are going to the UN Security Council to address the issue [of settlement construction] in full, hoping the council could act in a just manner and that we restore all our rights.”
Solidarity between the Christian minority and Muslim majority is growing in Gaza as both suffer under the Israeli offensive, with churches sheltering all religions and prayers being offered up on all sides
GAZA CITY – Without prior warning, an Israeli missile hit the house of the Ayyad family last Saturday. The Ayyads, who are Christian, were the first family among the tiny minority in Gaza to be targeted since the offensive began three weeks ago.
The Ayyad’s home was severely damaged. Furniture was ruined and family belongings such as children’s toys were strewn everywhere as a result of the missile’s impact. But naturally the human cost was much greater.
Jalila Ayyad was known among the people of Gaza as a woman that had nothing to do with any militia groups. “We are a Christian minority and have no links to Hamas or Fatah – we keep to ourselves and avoid problems,” says Fouad Ayyad, Jalila’s nephew.
Fouad is also the name of the bereaved husband of Jalila Ayyad. Standing in a white T-shirt stained with the blood of his wife and son – who was also seriously injured in the attack – he watches on as the nephew is interviewed.
A memorial service was held on Sunday for Ayyad at Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church on Sunday. The church has become a haven not just for Christian but also hundreds of Muslim families seeking shelter there as the offensive drags on.
“The church has been our hosts for the past two weeks, offering food, clothes and whatever we needed, their loss is our loss, their pain is our pain,” says 45-year-old Abu Khaled.
At the memorial service for Jalila, Archbishop Alexios said: “Another human being, an innocent one, has lost her life.” In the pews, crowds of Palestinian Christians sobbed as first from their tiny minority to be killed in the conflict was laid to rest.
In something that surprised local journalists, Jalila’s body was carried by both Muslims and Christians to the grave. It seems the shared wounds, mourning and rage are bridging past divides in war-ravaged Gaza.
Last week, Gaza’s Greek Orthodox Church also sustained damage by Israeli artillery shelling. Fifteen graves were damaged and damage was also caused to the Church’s sole hearse, says Kamel Ayyad, a parish member.
“The world must realise that Israel’s missiles don’t differentiate between Christians and Muslims,” said Abu.
At the memorial service a sad young man surrounded by attendees dressed in black gave a speech on behalf of the Greek Orthodox community and questioned the position of the international community in dealing with Israel’s crimes.
“Here is a Palestinian, an Arab, a Christian woman, martyred by Israeli shelling,” he said. “Bombs slammed into us and killed without differentiating between civilians and combatants,” he adds.
Father Manuel Musallam, a former priest of the Latin Church, has always been an advocate for Palestinian unity.
“When they destroy your mosques, call your prayers from our churches”.
There are approximately 1,500 Christians in Gaza. Mosques stand next to churches along the thin coastal enclave. George Ayyad, a relative of Jalila, rejects the idea that Christians will leave Gaza after this incident.
“This is exactly what the Israelis want, but where should we go?” he questions, before he continues “This is my homeland and we are Christians here in Gaza for more than 1,000 years and we will remain.”
During the memorial, bible scriptures were recited before Ayyad’s body was carried out and placed in a simple white coffin that had been decorated with a black cross.
Homeless Christians and Muslims brought out her remains together in the same community where Jalila will be buried, in the town she was born: in Gaza.
A Virgin Mary icon was placed in Jalila’s coffin while her relatives sang “Hallelujah.”