Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque to reopen on sunday ― official

The Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem will reopen on Sunday after a two-month closure due to the novel coronavirus, a senior official said Wednesday.

“All the doors of the Al-Aqsa mosque (compound) will be opened at dawn on Sunday,” Omar al-Kiswani, the mosque’s director, told AFP.

Details of the reopening have not yet been finalised, including whether the mosques on the site will be opened to worshippers or if the public will only be allowed into the courtyard where the faithful also pray.

The compound, located in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, closed its doors in March as part of measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Religious sites in Jerusalem began to reopen in recent days as the reported number of new cases declined, but the Al-Aqsa mosque compound remained shut during the Eid al-Fitr festival that began on March 24 for most Muslims and marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Scuffles broke out between Israeli police and Palestinians on the first day of Eid as worshippers tried to break through barriers to enter the compound.

The site has often been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is the third holiest site in Islam and where Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven.

It is also holy to Jews, who believe it to be the site of their two ancient temples — the second of which was destroyed in 70 AD.

In total, Israel has recorded more than 16,500 coronavirus infections and 281 deaths in its population of nine million.

Palestinian authorities have confirmed fewer than 500 cases in the West Bank and Gaza, which have a combined population of more than 4.5 million.

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