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  • APRIL 20, 2024

Allow Muslims to worship at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan


  • Asia
  • Staff Correspondent
  • Published: 29 Feb 2024, 10:44 AM

The United States on Wednesday urged Israel to allow Muslims to worship at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem during Ramadan, after a far-right minister proposed barring Palestinians from the occupied West Bank from praying there.

"As it pertains to Al-Aqsa, we continue to urge Israel to facilitate access to Temple Mount for peaceful worshippers during Ramadan consistent with past practice," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters, using the Jewish term for the site, the holiest in Judaism.

"That's not just the right thing to do, it's not just a matter of granting people religious freedom that they deserve and to which they have a right, but it's also a matter that directly is important to Israel's security," he said.

"It is not in Israel's security interest to inflame tensions in the West Bank or in the broader region."

Israel has been assessing how to address worship in Jerusalem during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that will start on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

The month of fasting comes as Israel wages a relentless military campaign in the Gaza Strip in response to a major attack by Hamas inside Israel on October 7.

Hamas has called for a mass movement on Al-Aqsa for the start of Ramadan.

"We call on our people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the occupied interior (Israel) to travel to Al-Aqsa from the first day of the blessed month of Ramadan, in groups or alone, to pray there to break the siege on it," Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised statement Wednesday.

Last week, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said that Palestinian residents of the West Bank "should not be allowed" entry to Jerusalem to pray during Ramadan.

"We cannot take risks," he said, adding: "We cannot have women and children hostage in Gaza and allow celebrations for Hamas on the Temple Mount."

Ben Gvir leads a hard-right party advocating Jewish control of the compound.

The United States has been pressing for a deal before Ramadan begins in which Israel would halt strikes in the Gaza Strip and hostages snatched on October 7 would be freed.

The Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 29,954 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest figures by the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

It was launched in response to Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

 
 
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