Hours after announcing Temple Mount closure, Waqf reported to reverse decision

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The Islamic religious authority that administers the Temple Mount on Wednesday ordered it closed from Friday following a spike in coronavirus cases, only to seem to reverse course hours later and decide that it will remain open, over an apparent controversy over whether Jewish visits would continue during the lockdown.

With cases of the virus on the rise in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Waqf authority held an emergency meeting with health officials, in which it decided to suspend the entry of worshipers to the compound that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock “starting from Friday afternoon for a period of three weeks.”

“We hope that citizens will understand this procedure, in order to preserve their health and well-being,” Waqf member Hatem Abdel Qader told AFP early in the afternoon.

The closure was to coincide with a three-week lockdown to be imposed throughout Israel, which controls the entrances of the compound.

Muslims pray at the Temple Moun compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, August 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
But a few hours after the announcement, unnamed Waqf officials told the Palestinian Authority’s WAFA news agency: “After we realized that the occupation authorities intended to open the Mughrabi Gate during the lockdown so that settlers could storm the mosque, we decided to keep the doors of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque open.”

“In the event that the occupation’s police do not abide by this decision [to keep the compound closed], the mosque will remain open to worshipers,” the source said.