Israel seeks to take over Islamic site near Al-Aqsa: NGO

By Abdel-Raouf Arnaout, Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Israel is planning to seize an Islamic waqf building adjacent to the Al-Aqsa mosque complex

Israel is planning to seize an Islamic waqf building adjacent to the Al-Aqsa mosque complex

AL-QUDS – Israel is planning to seize an Islamic waqf (endowment) building adjacent to the Al-Aqsa mosque complex in Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) in order to convert it into a Jewish temple, a Palestinian NGO warned Wednesday.

The Knesset (Israel's parliament) is holding a series of sessions to discuss the acquisition of the Al-Shahabi building, an Islamic waqf site adjacent to the so-called Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage, a Palestinian NGO, said in a statement.

"The latest [Knesset] session on Sunday decided to expand the spaces allowed for Jewish prayers inside the building," the statement read.

"The Al-Shahabi building is an Islamic site that lies entirely under Islamic endowment," the NGO said. "Non-Muslims have no [ownership] rights to it."

The Knesset has yet to comment on the NGO's assertions.

Earlier this year, an Israeli lawmaker proposed legislation that would revoke Jordanian oversight of Palestinian holy sites in violation of the terms of a 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty.

The move angered Amman and prompted concerns over repeated Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers, often accompanied by Israeli security forces, have repeatedly forced their way into the mosque complex. The frequent violations anger Palestinian Muslims and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied Al-Quds during the 1967 Middle East War, eventually annexing the holy city – which it then claimed as its capital – in 1980.

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