Israel closes Al-Aqsa compound footbridge

Arab-Israel Relations Materials 12 December 2011 15:19 (UTC +04:00)
Israel closes Al-Aqsa compound footbridge
Israel closes Al-Aqsa compound footbridge

Israel on Monday closed a footbridge at Jerusalem's holiest and most volatile religious site after deeming the structure unsafe Maan reported

The wooden ramp was erected as a stopgap after a snowstorm and earthquake in 2004 damaged a stone bridge leading up from the Western Wall to the sacred compound where the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine stand.

The footbridge was to have been torn down last month but Netanyahu postponed the demolition on the advice of Israeli diplomats and security officials, government officials said.

A police spokesman said the bridge was closed after Jerusalem's city engineer declared it unsafe. It had been used mainly by tourists. Muslim worshipers use other entrances to the holy compound.

Israeli media reports said Israel would consult with the king of Jordan, the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, on the future of the bridge.

The city's senior Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem, said Islamic religious authorities opposed demolition of the existing structure and construction of a new one.

The holy compound is in the old walled city of Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank in a 1967 war and annexed in a step not recognized by the international community.

For Muslims the Dome of the Rock marks the spot from which Mohammad made his night journey to heaven. The compound is the third holiest site in Islam.

Jews revere the compound as the site of their Biblical Temple. Surviving foundations of its Western Wall are now a focus of prayer.

Any construction or interference at the site can be politically explosive.

On September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon visited the Al-Aqsa compound surrounded by a 1,000-strong security force. The move is widely believed to have contributed to the beginning of the Second Intifada, or uprising, against Israeli military occupation.