Tensions run high in Jerusalem as mosques and Muslims targeted

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Palestinians hold Friday prayers in the Marwani Prayer Room, also called Solomon’s Stables, located under the southeastern corner of the raised platform, which holds the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. A fire broke out at the sacred site. (AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

Tensions run high in Jerusalem as mosques and Muslims targeted

  • Israeli officials were upset with the visit to Al-Aqsa by French President Emmanuel Macron, which was not officially coordinated with any political side

AMMAN: Tensions are running high in Jerusalem following an arson attack on a mosque, anti-Palestinian graffiti and a leading cleric given an extended ban from Al-Aqsa, senior figures have told Arab News.
Arson was suspected in the torching of a mosque in Beit Safafa and graffiti had been sprayed on a nearby wall outside the building.
The events follow the high-security commemoration of Holocaust memorial events that were attended by dignitaries and heads of state from around the world in Jerusalem.
Muslim leaders called on worshippers to attending sunrise morning prayers on Friday and at least 50,000 people turned up, causing Israeli authorities to panic.
Worshippers carried Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who had already been told to stay away from Al-Aqsa, on their shoulders and the picture of the defiant congregation bearing him aloft was published around the world.
Wasfi Kailani, executive director of the Hashemite Fund, said the escalation of the situation has caused people to worry.
“Muslims are worried about their mosque and their action reflects their loss of trust in all the attempts to quieten them down,” he told Arab News.
Sabri told Arab News he had not received any written ban to stop him entering the mosque when he entered it on Friday.
The following day Israeli soldiers appeared at his house at 2 a.m. and handed him a four-month ban from entering Al-Aqsa. The sheikh said the decision was “revenge for a picture that went around the world.”
He said he would meet his lawyers and fellow Muslim leaders to decide what would happen next.
Fadi Hidmi, the Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that Israelis had shown they did not respect holy places or faith leaders. The people of East Jerusalem were united and resilient, he added.

Muslims are worried about their mosque and their action reflects their loss of trust in all the attempts to quieten them down.

Wasfi Kailani, Hashemite Fund official

Israeli officials were upset with the visit to Al-Aqsa by French President Emmanuel Macron, which was not officially coordinated with any political side. The visit was preceded by a confrontation between Macron and Israeli police who tried to stop him from visiting the Church of St. Anne and his meeting there with Palestinian Christian leaders.
Macron visited Al-Aqsa, giving just 45-minutes notice to the head of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem Sheikh Azzam Khatib. But there was no official coordination with Israel, Palestine or Jordan.
Macron was well received at the holy site, and later met local merchants in the old city. He also visited the Western Wall.
Ziad Abu Zayyad, former minister of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian government, told Arab News that the attack on Jerusalem’s mosques and leaders had become the norm and that Israel’s anti-Palestinian attitude had become evident to the world.
Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the PASSIA think tank in Jerusalem and a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News that after 52 years of occupation, the people of Jerusalem had proved that their unity and sense of community was the strongest asset for Palestinians in the holy city.


Yemen imposes curfew, frees low-risk inmates

Updated 03 April 2020

Yemen imposes curfew, frees low-risk inmates

  • At least five Yemeni provinces have begun releasing dozens of prisoners to protect them from the illness

AL-MUKALLA: Local authorities in Yemen’s southeastern Hadramout province have imposed a curfew in major cities as the country steps up its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came as other regions began releasing low-risk prisoners to help protect prisons from an outbreak of the virus.

Maj. Gen. Faraj Al-Bahsani, Hadramout’s governor, said that he was forced to impose the curfew after people ignored appeals to stay at home and avoid gatherings.

The streets of Al-Mukalla and neighboring cities appeared empty as police and military vehicles roamed major roads to monitor the curfew from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Despite having not recorded a single case of the virus, at least five Yemeni provinces have begun releasing dozens of prisoners to protect them from the illness.

Authorities in Hadramout, Mahra, Shabwa and Dhalae have released 200, 49, 43 and 34 prisoners, respectively. All had completed the bulk of their sentences or were low-risk inmates. Officials said the release of the prisoners will ease crowded prisons and help isolate the remaining prisoners.

Since early last month, Yemen’s internationally recognized government has ordered provincial governors to take tough measures to prevent the spread of the disease in their provinces.

Yemen has shut down borders, and closed airports, schools and mosques as vital medical supplies have begun arriving in the country. Several quarantine facilities have been established in Aden, Haramout, Shabwa and Mahra, Sanaa, Baydha and other provinces.

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Maj. Gen. Faraj Al-Bahsani, Hadramout’s governor, said that he was forced to impose the curfew after people ignored appeals to stay at home and avoid gatherings.

But critics have questioned the effectiveness of the measures without cooperation between local authorities across the country.

While Hadramout imposes an overnight curfew, markets and shops in neighboring provinces are still bustling with people.

Other governors appeared reluctant to shut down qat markets that attract thousands of people daily.

Fatehi Ben Lazreq, editor of Aden Al-Ghad newspaper, criticized the lack of regional cooperation.

“Each governor has his own legislation,” he told Arab News on Thursday. “The central government is weak and absent.”

He warned that without tougher regulations and cooperation between health offices across Yemen, the disease could overwhelm the country’s fragile health system.

Despite the arrival of medical supplies in the past two weeks, local health workers have complained about a shortage of protective gear.

Doctors, nurses and health workers at Ibn Sina Hospital in Al-Mukalla staged a protest outside the facility on Thursday, demanding more personal protective items and claiming that current supplies will run out within two weeks.

The hospital, one of the biggest in Yemen, offers health services to the provinces of Hadramout, Mahra and Shabwa.

Alabed Bamousa, the hospital’s manager, told Arab News that he has alerted local health authorities and the World Health Organization office in Yemen to the scarcity of protective equipment at the hospital.

“I am waiting for those items to arrive,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yemeni activists have launched a social media campaign to pressure warring factions in Yemen to release prisoners, warning that poor conditions in prisons make them breeding grounds for the virus.

Under #SaveYemeniPrisoners, the activists urged rival Yemeni groups to honor their commitments to release prisoners under the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement.

“With one voice, all human rights activists inside and outside Yemen say release the detainees before it is too late,” Hooria Mashhour, a former human rights minister, said on Twitter on Wednesday.

Mashhour said that she is taking part in the campaign as part of efforts to secure the release of hundreds of Yemeni activists, politicians and journalists detained in the past five years.

“If this epidemic enters Yemen, it will be a catastrophe for all Yemenis. It will severely affect prisoners and detainees who are crammed into dungeons that lack the most basic health standards,” she said.

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