Al-Aqsa complex, a site holy to Muslims and Jews and the location of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque, was reopened hours after the site was closed due to security fears after the shooting of a Jewish activist–during which interval Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had announced that the closure was a “declaration of war.”
“This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation,” said Abbas, responding to the closure of the third-holiest site in Islam.
“We hold the Israeli government responsible for this dangerous escalation in Jerusalem that has reached its peak through the closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque this morning.
“This decision is a dangerous act and a blatant challenge that will lead to more tension and instability and will create a negative and dangerous atmosphere.
“The state of Palestine will take all legal measures to hold Israel accountable and to stop these ongoing attacks.”
Hours after the closure, the site was reopened, with restrictions.
“It was decided to restore [the compound] to normal… effective immediately,” stated police spokeswoman Luba Samri.
Entry was still restricted for men. Only men over 50 were admitted because of fears of unrest at Friday’s midday prayers. There were no restrictions on female Muslims.
After Abbas’ statements, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu increased police numbers, saying, “I have ordered a significant increase in forces as well as in means (available to them) so we can both ensure security in Jerusalem and also maintain the status quo in the holy places.”
Thursday, American-born ultranationalist activist Yehuda Glick was shot by a gunman on a motorbike as he was leaving a conference. Glick has been an advocate for greater Jewish access to the Al-Aqsa complex.
Glick is currently in hospital in serious condition. The suspect of the shooting died after opening fire on police who had surrounded his home later Thursday.
By Daniel Jackson