An Israeli court has upheld a ban on Jewish prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied Old City of al-Quds, after an earlier lower court's decision stirred outrage among various Palestinians and across the Muslim world.
Judge of the district court in al-Quds, Aryeh Romanov, on Friday confirmed that Jews are barred from worshiping openly at the site, and only Muslims are permitted to pray there.
In issuing the ruling, Romanov said the fact that the defendant, an extremist Israeli settler identified as Rabbi Aryeh Lippo, had been caught served as proof that his prayer at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound was overt.
“What is important… is the fact that there was someone who noticed the appellee praying, which evidently shows that the prayer was overt. If it was not overt, no one would have noticed it,” the judge wrote.
Friday’s ruling came after Israel's public security minister Omer Bar-Lev appealed the lower court's decision on Tuesday not to regard prayer by Jewish worshipers as a “criminal act” if it remained silent, and warned that “a change in the existing status quo” would spark violent protests and could cause a flare-up.
The Israeli police had also appealed the decision by the magistrate’s court.
The judicial decision could have upended a longstanding agreement whereby Muslims worship at al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third holiest site – while Jews worship at the nearby Western Wall.
Palestinian resistance factions, as well as officials in Jordan, Egypt and other Muslim countries had condemned the Israeli lower court’s decision that “quiet” Jewish prayer should be allowed at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Hamas decried the court’s decision as a “blatant aggression” against the sacred site, and a clear declaration of war against Islam and its sanctities.
“The Occupation continues its sinister policies and plans to divide the al-Aqsa Mosque compound both in terms of time and space. The move also paves the way for further incursions and desecrations by Zionists,” the group said in a statement Friday.
Hamas added that last May’s Operation Sword of al-Quds will not be the last battle for al-Quds, and that the “resistance is prepared to repel any aggression and defend Palestinian rights.”
Mass mobilization for al-Aqsa defense to go ahead
On Friday, Hamas said mass mobilization for the defense of al-Aqsa Mosque will go ahead and get stronger regardless of the Israeli court’s ruling to uphold the ban.
Senior Hamas official Ismail Rezvan called on Palestinians from different walks of life, especially residents of al-Quds and occupied West Bank towns, not to allow extremist settlers to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and to defend the site.
“Al-Aqsa Mosque is the first qibla (direction) that Muslims faced for prayer, and is the site that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to ascend to Heaven. Therefore, it only belongs to the Palestinian nation and the Muslim world. The occupying (Israeli) regime will never succeed to falsify history and distort facts,” he said.
“Our nation and our resistance will never allow the enemy to impose new conditions in al-Aqsa Mosque, and al-Quds will remain the eternal capital of Palestine,” the top Hamas official added.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound sits just above the Western Wall plaza and houses both the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Palestinians want the occupied West Bank as part of their future independent state and view al-Quds’ eastern sector as the capital of their future sovereign state.