Israel prevents Muslim burials

Gulf Times

Israeli authorities have been preventing Palestinians for several months from burying their dead in a Muslim cemetery at the foot of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, sources on both sides said yesterday.

On order from Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, Muslims can no longer bury their dead in an 800-square-metre stretch of the cemetery that borders the eastern wall of the compound, revered by Jews and Muslims.

“For more than six months, Israeli police have prevented Palestinians from burying their dead in this area, already home to several tombs in which bodies have been buried,” said Adnan Husseini from the Higher Islamic Council.

“They are maintaining the land in question is not part of the cemetery but earmarked as an archaeological park. That is not true and we have documents proving that this land is part of the cemetery,” he added.

Dichter’s chief of staff, Mati Gill, said the ground in question had been declared an archaeological park by the Israeli government several years ago.

“In August 2006, Dichter was shown that the decision for many years had not been implemented. He decided to enforce it by not allowing any new burials but not removing the existing ones,” he said.“No one will be able to touch the old grave sites,” he added.

Jewish organisations have launched a campaign to stop Palestinians from burying their dead in the ground and have taken the matter to Israel’s high court, which is yet to take a decision.

According to the Israeli media, police have identified 21 graves, 39 empty ones and 35 plots, but are unsure whether the latter are in use.

“Israel is defying the will of the international community and international resolutions with a new plan … to pursue the judaization of Jerusalem,” said Abdullah Kanaan of Jordan’s Royal Commission for Jerusalem Affairs.

“The pretext is to search for antiquities … but the truth is it is not about searching for antiquities at all but to control the holy city,” he told Petra news agency in remarks published by Jordanian dailies.

Earlier this year Israel triggered an outcry in Arab and Muslim countries over excavation and repair work near the Al-Aqsa compound.
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