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Palestinian Sources: Efforts to Re-open Al Aqsa Mosque - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ramallah– Palestinian officials said that Arab and US efforts were being exerted to reopen Al Aqsa Mosque to Palestinian worshipers before Friday, which is expected to witness demonstrations against Israeli security measures imposed on the entrances of the compound.

Former Minister in Fatah Movement Hatem Abdelqader told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Saudi Arabia and Jordan have exerted major pressure that has led to a direct US intervention in the case.

“Within 24 hours, extensive contacts took place, Saudi Arabia pressed the White House, Jordan pressed Israel, and called for an end to the crisis before Friday,” Abdelqader said.

He continued: “According to the available information available, Israel was given until Thursday evening to remove the gates.”

Al-Aqsa mosque was closed for two days following an attack on Friday, which saw three Arab Israelis open fire at Israeli police near the site. On Sunday, Israeli authorities partially reopened the site, but placed strict security measures at the entrances, including metal detectors to search worshipers.

The new security measures sparked violent confrontations on Monday, near one of the gates, which left several Palestinians injured.

The Palestinian official noted that the Americans have pressed Israel for a compromise that includes removing the electronic gates in exchange for keeping the inspection.

“But we will examine the form of this inspection. If it is imposed on bags or suspected persons, we will accept it; but if it is a personal inspection of each one [Palestinian], it will be rejected,” he said.

Abdelqader warned against keeping the gates until Friday, saying it would turn into “a day of defiance”.

Religious authorities, Islamic and Christian figures, as well as politicians and activists, have urged the residents of Jerusalem to march to Al Aqsa on Friday.

The Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem decided to close all mosques in the city on Friday and direct the worshipers to Al Aqsa.

For the fourth day in a row, Jerusalemites prayed in front of the gates of Al Aqsa to reject the electronic gates, while Jews were allowed to enter the mosque accompanied by the Israeli police.

As tensions escalated, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decided to cut off his foreign tour to head an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership.

Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said: “Abbas decided to interrupt his foreign visit and return to the homeland to follow up on developments in the occupied city of Jerusalem, especially Al Aqsa Mosque.”

He added that Abbas was conducting a series of Arab and international contacts to prevent the deterioration of the situation.

While Israel did not issue any immediate comment on an imminent deal, the website of Israel’s Channel 2 said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was conducting security consultations on the issue of e-gates.

Israeli sources said that security services have supported the removal of the gates, but the police was opposed to it.