Israel closes Al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers for the first time after 50 years

July, 2017

For the first time in 50 years, Friday prayers were not observed at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem after Israel closed the compound following a gun attack that killed two Israeli policemen. Palestinian Muslims gathered outside the Old City walls prayed on mats that they laid on the streets and protested the Israeli decision. The crowd later dispersed peacefully. Meanwhile, Israeli police detained Jerusalem's top Muslim cleric Sheikh Mohammad Hussein near the mosque. The Mufti was taken into custody from the Bab Al-Asbat area (Lion's Gate) after the Friday prayers. "Israeli police detained my father in a violent manner and took him to an unknown destination," Omar, son of the grand mufti, said.

The head of Turkey's Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), Mehmet Görmez criticized the Israeli decision to close down the mosque. "There is no justifiable excuse to prevent Muslims from praying at a holy place like the Al-Aqsa mosque," Görmez wrote on his official Twitter account. Jordan, the custodian of the compound, also urged Israel to "immediately reopen" the mosque and denounced the violation of rules at Al-Aqsa.

The last time Friday prayers were not held at the mosque was in late August 1969, a day after Michael Rohan, an Australian, set the mosque on fire. Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming all of Jerusalem as the Jewish state's "eternal" capital -- a move never recognized by the international community.