You are here

Top Jerusalem awqaf officials released after Jordanian protest

Israel arrests Salhab, Bkirat after opening of Aqsa Mosque complex

By JT - Feb 25,2019 - Last updated at Feb 25,2019

Head of the Jerusalem Awqaf Council Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab (right) and Deputy Director General of the Islamic Awqaf Department in Jerusalem Najih Bkirat (left) meet relatives after being released from Israeli occupation authorities’custody in Jerusalem on Sunday (AFP photo)

AMMAN — Israeli forces on Sunday released top Jerusalem awqaf officials Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab and Najih Bkirat following Jordanian efforts and protests of the arrest that took place earlier in the day, Minister of State for Media Affairs and Government Spokesperson Jumana Ghunaimat said.

Salhab, head of the Jerusalem Awqaf Council, and Bkirat, the deputy director general of the Islamic Awqaf Department in Jerusalem, were arrested two days after the former reopened the gate leading into the Bab Al Rahma on Friday, in Al Aqsa Mosque complex, which has been sealed by Israel since 2003, and hundreds of Muslims went inside to pray for the first time in years, Reuters news agency reported.

It followed days of tension between 14-hectare forces and the Muslim religious authorities over access to a corner of the 14-hectar sacred complex, during which Israeli forces arrested 60 people and boosted the security presence in the Old City, according to Reuters.

Ghunaimat said that the government will continue to make every effort to safeguard Jerusalem and confront the rejected Israeli violations, cautioning that the Israeli side must respect the authority of the Jerusalem Awqaf Department.

She added that efforts and phone calls from the Jordanian side since the arrests took place have led to the release of the officials, in addition to other awqaf employees that were arrested in the past few days, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Earlier in the day, the Foreign Ministry slammed the provocative Israeli measures and the arrest campaign in a statement, and made a formal protest note condemning the transgressions through the Jordanian Embassy in Tel Aviv. 

Sufian Qudah, the ministry’s spokesperson, said that under the international law, the Jerusalem Awqaf Department, which is affiliated with Jordan’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, is the sole competent authority to manage the affairs of Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif, according to the statement. 

“All unilateral Israeli measures related to Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif are illegal and unfounded, and will mount tension,” the statement added.

Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Abdul Nasser Abul Bassal also condemned Sunday’s events, saying that the detention of the officials directly affects the Jordanian role in safeguarding the Holy City and its shrines. 

“Israeli forces are playing with fire” by taking such measures, he said.

The Lower House also condemned the arrests during its Sunday session, voicing its rejection of Israeli escalation.

Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh said that the occupation’s illegal practices will not hinder Jordan from performing its role in protecting Jerusalem under the Hashemite Custodianship over Islamic and Christian holy sites in the city.

Tarawneh called on the government to take immediate action, underlining the “grave repercussions” such measures would lead to.

The Lower House expressed its pride in Jerusalemites’ resilience, reiterating that Bab Al Rahma is an integral part of Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif, the third-holiest site in the Islamic religion.

Salhab’s lawyer told Reuters that Israeli forces had banned him from accessing the complex for a week, but there was no immediate comment from Israeli authorities on whether they had issued such an order.

Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, denounced the arrests “in the strongest terms” and demanded their immediate release, Reuters reported.

63 users have voted.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.