World Bulletin / News Desk
Palestinian Religious Endowments (Awqaf) Minister Mahmoud al-Habbash said Sunday that Israeli forces had banned the azan (Islamic call to prayer) at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Al-Khalil a total of 599 times during 2013.
"Israel is trying to tighten its stifling grip on worshippers and banning them from performing their prayers inside the mosque," al-Habbash said in a statement.
He added that Israeli forces had closed off the mosque itself 11 times during the 2013.
"Occupation forces are using lame excuses to deliberately violate the sanctity of the mosque."
The minister went on to accuse Israeli forces of "trying to Judaize the Islamic place of worship."
He said such Israeli "provocative policies reflect malicious intent to gradually take over the mosque," half of which is already controlled by Israeli authorities.
"This contradicts international conventions and agreements which upheld the protection of houses of worship under occupation," insisted the minister.
He urged Palestinian residents of the West Bank city of al-Khalil, where the mosque is located, to continue to perform prayers inside the mosque "to protect it against the Israeli plot."
The Ibrahimi Mosque complex is revered by both Muslims and Jews.
It is believed to mark the burial sites of prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Following the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers inside the mosque by Jewish extremist settler Baruch Goldstein, Israeli authorities decided to keep Muslim and Jewish worshippers separated.
Al-Khalil is home to roughly 160,000 Palestinian Muslims and about 500 Jewish settlers. The latter live in several Jewish-only enclaves that are heavily guarded by Israeli troops.Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2014, 10:03