05/20/2020, 09.26
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Covid-19: Jerusalem, the Al Aqsa mosque reopens for faithful

The place of worship closed for almost two months under restrictions for the pandemic. The go-ahead for the Eid al-Fitr festival. The director of the mosque hopes that there will be no restrictions on access. In Israel over 16,600 infections and 278 victims; in the West Bank and Gaza 391 infections and two victims.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After almost two months of complete closure, in an attempt to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, the authorities have ordered the reopening for prayer of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem starting next week.

The measure is linked to the slowdown of the epidemic in the region, as in other parts of the world, after weeks of emergency and deep suffering. In Israel, there were over 16,600 infections and 278 victims to date; in the West Bank and Gaza 391 infections and two victims.

In a note released yesterday, the Muslim committee that manages the complex (Waqf) reports that restrictions on outdoor prayer on the Temple Mount will be removed at the end of the festival of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer. The holy day, one of the moments of greatest celebration for Muslims, with sumptuous banquets and group meetings difficult to repeat in this time of pandemic, will begin on May 23 or 24 depending on the different countries and different traditions.

The decision to close al-Aqsa to the public, announced April 16 by the Council headed by Jordan as guardian of the sacred places in Jerusalem, extended the measure taken on 23 March during the early stages of the pandemic. In a note the custodians had spoken of a "painful" decision but "in line with the fatwas and the indications of the doctors". Muslims are required to "perform prayers in their homes during the month of Ramadan [which begins April 23], to protect their safety".

At the moment it is not clear whether the faithful will be able to enter the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, the third most important holy place for Islam, after it was closed for the first time in over 50 years. A Palestinian official for religious affairs in Jerusalem adds that further clarifications will be released in the coming days on openings and access modalities.

According to Islamic tradition, the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from here.

Omar al-Kiswani, director of the mosque, hopes that there will be no restrictions on the number of faithful; in addition, the body that presides over the care of places of worship will provide the exact "access mechanism and measures". Every measure, he concludes, is taken to "ensure that we will not be subject to criticism on the pretext that we would have broken the rules".

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