The Temple Institute: No Limit on Number of Muslim Worshipers



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No Limit on Number of Muslim Worshipers

Updated Oct. 15, 2004 0:02

With only hours to spare, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, following consultations with police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi, decided Thursday not to limit the number of Muslim worshipers praying at the Temple Mount during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins Friday.

Accepting Karadi's recommendation, Sharon backed away from warnings by officials over the past few days that Israel would limit the number of worshipers to 60,000 unless the Wakf agreed to keep people away from the southeastern corner of the Mount. That area is above Solomon's Stables and is reportedly in danger of collapsing.

Following a tour of the Mount with Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Ilan Franco, Karadi said that in the past 48 hours work was done in Solomon's Stables to reinforce the ceiling and that the area above was being sealed off. He added that Jordanian engineering experts were were participating in the renovations.

"Over the past few weeks several operations have been initiated to allow for an unrestricted prayer service," Karadi said.

"We received an engineer's opinion that part of the Mount is not safe and there is a danger that the ceiling over Solomon's Stables will cave in. The Wakf has also reached the decision that work needs to be done in the compound to prevent people from praying in that area."

Officials said that Sharon arrived at his decision after the Wakf accepted Israel's demands to close off the area above Solomon's Stables.

Karadi said that police were not in favor of imposing restrictions on the number of worshipers as long as the Wakf agreed to demands to close off part of the compound. "If the Wakf does not fulfill our demands," he warned early Thursday, "we will have no choice but to restrict the numbers." Karadi also said that the ceiling could collapse causing an "unimaginable disaster", potentially killing thousands of worshipers.

Officials of the Wakf, the Muslim religious trust which oversees the site, initially rejected the warnings claiming they were part of a ploy to limit access to the prayer site.

Jerusalem Mufti Akrama Sabri said that Egyptian, Jordanian, and Palestinian engineers have checked the mosque area on the Temple Mount and do not share the Israeli opinion that the area is at risk of collapse.

"Limiting the number of worshipers is a declaration of war on Allah by the Jews," Chief Judge of the Islamic Court Tayseer Tamimi said.

Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the radical northern faction of the fundamentalist Islamic Movement, called Muslims to come en masse to the Aksa Mosque on Friday, assuring them that they are at no risk.

"We look after the safety of worshipers as we take care of the safety of everyone, but we know and are sure that there is no danger whatsoever and there is nothing to what the Israeli experts are saying," Khatib said.

"We say to the Palestinians and all Muslims to come together to the Aksa Mosque... I think the prime minister should wish the Palestinians and all Muslims a happy holiday for Ramadan and not tell them they cannot go to the Aksa Mosque."

Security forces have begun preparations for securing the Temple Mount area during the prayers. Several thousand policemen and soldiers will man roadblocks surrounding the capital and large forces will also be posted in the Old City to ensure that the prayers do not turn violent.

Police said that there are no specific warnings of plans by worshipers to become violent.



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