Sunday, November 27, 2011

Jordan minister calls to halt Al-Aqsa bridge demolition

The bridge to Bab al-Margharbeh in Jerusalem's Old City. (MaanImages/HO)

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Jordan's Minister of Islamic Affairs Abdul Salam al-Abadi spoke out on Saturday against the plan of Israel's Jerusalem municipality to demolish and rebuild an access route to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City.

The minister said King Abdullah II of Jordan -- who met President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Monday -- had personally taken up the issue, official news agency Petra reported.

The bridge leading to Bab (gate) al-Margharbeh is a main entry point to the Islamic holy site the Haram al-Sharif -- a compound housing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem including the Old City after a 1967 war which usurped Jordanian rule in the city's east and the West Bank.

Israel's Jerusalem municipality said on Oct. 24 it needed to demolish and replace the bridge within 30 days due to danger of collapse or fire, PA official news agency Wafa reported.

The municipality had already obtained a permit to demolish the structure, but delayed it to allay inciting protests at any tampering with the flashpoint site which abuts Jewish holy site the Western Wall, Wafa reported.

Palestinian officials have appealed to halt the demolition and Jordan says it has developed an alternative solution with the UN's cultural agency UNESCO.

Al-Abadi said Sunday that Jordan -- which registered the site on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1981 -- was working with international organizations to stem the demolition. A 1994 peace agreement between Jordan and Israel recognized Jordan's special role regarding the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.

"King Abdullah has said many times that Jerusalem is a red line that cannot be crossed," Al-Abadi told Petra.

"This bridge is an essential part of the holy Islamic site," he said, warning that the site was entrusted to Jordan and Muslims across the world.

"Israel should realize that the Islamic world is watching with tension all the Israeli projects and tunnels around al-Haram al-Sharif."

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are unable to visit East Jerusalem without special permits, and say that Israel's control of the city endangers their right to worship and a future Palestinian state, which is not viable without the eastern sector as its capital.

Maan News Agency