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'Mugrabi Bridge closure a declaration of religious war'

reprinted from Jerusalem Post
December 12, 2011 Monday 16 Kislev 5772

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum says bridge's closure shows the "Zionist scheme of aggression against the al-Aqsa"; Rivlin: the bridge is dangerous and there is a need to build a new one.

Hamas warned Monday that the Israeli closure of the Mugrabi Bridge is tantamount to a "declaration of war" on Muslim holy sites. "This is a serious step that shows the Zionist scheme of aggression against the al-Aqsa mosque," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum in an interview with AFP. "This is a violent act that amounts to a declaration of religious war on the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem."

Barhum's comments follow remarks made by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat last week, when he said that the Israeli move "shows their determination to judaize Jerusalem and to take over the city’s Muslim holy places."

Israeli Officials closed the Mugrabi Bridge on Sunday, three days before the municipality deadline to close the ramp leading from the Western Wall plaza to the Temple Mount.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Monday met with Andreas Michaelis, the German ambassador to Israel, and expressed Israel's commitment to re-opening the Mugrabi Bridge. "Four days after the Six-Day War we decided to allow Muslims to remain in control over the Temple Mount, even though this drew the ire of many Jews and was viewed as an abandonment of the holy site to Muslims," Rivlin said. "The Mugrabi Bridge was built with unanimous consent. At this point in time the bridge is dangerous and there is a need to build a new one."

The Jerusalem municipality originally set November 28 as the deadline to destroy the bridge, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intervened to stop the demolition, worried about triggering riots across the Arab world. In the most recent letter, sent last week, the municipality insisted the entrance must be closed to the public until a new bridge is built.

The bridge has been the subject of contention because it is the only entrance for non-Muslims who want to visit the Dome of the Rock. The original earthen ramp collapsed during a snowstorm in 2004, and the temporary bridge was built in its stead, meant to serve for a few months at most until a permanent bridge was built. Repair work on the bridge in 2007 touched off widespread Muslim rioting in Jordan and Jerusalem and calls for a third intifada.

Most people agree that the bridge is indeed dangerous to use, and that closing it is not a political move.

The issue of a replacement bridge and coordination with Muslim authorities was set to be discussed by the High Court of Justice in June, but the case was pushed off until December 28. Another case involving the Western Wall plaza and the bridge will be heard by the Jerusalem District Court in January.



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