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Israel Detains Waqf Head Following Clashes Over Holy Site

After the recent protests, Israel has detained the leader of the Islamic authority that manages Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, on Feb 24.

Neighbouring country Jordan delegated Sheikh Abdelazeem Salhab as the head the Waqf. The country has strongly opposed the arrest.

In a statement to Petra news agency, Jordan’s minister of Islamic affairs, Abdul Nasser Abul al-Basal said, “Israel’s action is dangerous and an unacceptable escalation that affected Jordan’s role as the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.”

The arrest was confirmed by the Israeli police, however, Salhab was released shortly. He was prohibited from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque for a week.

Salhab’s arrest came after the protests by Palestinians, who penetrated a restricted part of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound that was sealed in 2003 by Israel because it was linked to a heritage organization, allegedly associated with an armed group.

The Waqf was accused of challenging the status quo at the crucial site by gathering in the blocked area on Friday.

The holy Mosque has been under altercations in the recent days with a couple of demonstrations involving the police. The local police has since arrested at least 60 Palestinians, who allegedly have “caused disturbances” and “instigated violence”.

The Mosque in question, enshrined by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the al-Haram al-Sharif, is the root of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Al-Aqsa is the third holiest house of worship in Islam, after Mecca and Medina.

According to the Waqf authorities, “Salhab’s arrest was unusual.”

“He’s the most senior Jordanian figure in the Palestinian territories. Twenty years ago if the police wanted to interrogate the mufti, they would call and invite him, but coming to a 75-year-old’s home like that at 5am is unacceptable,” the Waqf official said.

Moreover, the Israeli authorities obstructed the Al-Rahma entry last week, restraining the entry of numerous Palestinian worshipers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

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