10/15/2004, 00.00
israel - palestine
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Israel: no limits on Al Aqsa Mosque

Israeli President Katsav: "Ramadan: a time for prayer for brotherhood among religions".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Israel will set no limit to the number of Muslim worshippers entering the Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, which begins today.  This is what Sharon's office said in a statement yesterday, adding that "The prime minister accepted the clarification of the Islamic Trust and will not limit the number of worshippers."

In past days, Israel had asked the Waqf Islamic Trust (the administrative body responsible for Muslim holy sites) to cordon off and limit entry to the Esplanade of the Mosques due to the risk of collapse.  In case such measures were not to be taken, the Israeli government was prepared to limit, for reasons of public safety, the number of visitors to the Esplanade during Ramadan to 50 or 60 thousand.  Each year during Ramadan, some 250,000 Muslims visit the Al Aqsa Mosque, which is considered Islam's third holiest site.

Initially, the Waqf remained silent, but has since taken the necessary precautionary measures, by cordoning off the area posing risks. The Israeli police chief, Moshe Karadi, was thus able to announce yesterday, after inspecting the Esplanade, that limits to access will not be put in place. Prime Minister Sharon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee today that the government had clarified to the Jordanians, the king of Morocco and to the European Union the unequivocal need for repairs. "The Waqf Muslim religious trust has taken the warnings seriously," Sharon said.

For the start of Ramadan, Israeli President Moshe Katsav sent a greeting to all Muslim citizens of Israel.  "This is the time to pray for increased understanding and brotherhood among all peoples, and members of the monotheistic faiths in particular," he said.
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