'Greater Jerusalem means no churches and no mosques'

2018-04-12 20:23
The Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City is seen while Jewish orthodox men pray in a cemetery after US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (Ariel Schalit, AP)

The Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City is seen while Jewish orthodox men pray in a cemetery after US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (Ariel Schalit, AP)

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Hanna Issa, secretary-general of the Palestinian Authority's Muslim-Christian Committee has warned that more than 95% of Jerusalem had already been "Judaised" by Israel, and the "Greater Jerusalem" means the destruction of churches and mosques. 

"Israel wants to establish its so-called 'Greater Jerusalem' on an area of 600km2, which would mean the destruction of the city's churches and mosques," Issa said.

The warning came during the International Conference on the Holy City of Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Conference

The 9th International Conference on the Holy City of Jerusalem kicked off in the West Bank city of Ramallah; attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  

The conference was also attended by numerous delegations from across the Arab and Muslim world.

Speaking at the event, Youssef Edies, Palestinian minister of religious endowments, described Jerusalem as "the birthplace of religions".

"We must focus Arab, Muslim and international efforts on resisting the fierce western onslaught against the Holy Land," he asserted.

Munib Masri, chairperson of the Jerusalem Endowment, stressed Jerusalem's importance for both Muslims and Christians.

"The world must understand that there can never be peace until the Jerusalem file is satisfactorily resolved," he said.

He added: "Jerusalem requires practical initiatives and financial support with a view to strengthening the resolve of its people."

Call for free access

On Saturday, a United Nations envoy accused Israel of trying to block him and other diplomats from a pre-Easter "Holy Fire" ritual in the packed Jerusalem church Christians revere as the burial site of Jesus.

Robert Serry, the UN's peace envoy to the Middle East, said in a statement that Israeli security officers had stopped a group of Palestinian worshippers and diplomats in a procession near the church, "claiming they had orders to that effect".

Late March the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said church authorities had applied for around 600 permits for Gaza Palestinian Christians to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, but had not received any.

Father Ibrahim Shomali, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said: "We have to have free access to the Holy Land, free access to our holy places" .

Israel also prohibited, last Friday, the Adhan (Muslim call to prayer), at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, also known as Al-Khalil, according to Palestinian Religious Endowments Minister Yousef Adais.

In a press statement, Adais described the move as "a dangerous precedent" and "a cowardly breach of the freedom of worship".

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