Al-Aqsa mosque officials have rejected new security measures put in place by Israel as it reopened the holy site following a deadly gun battle that prompted a two-day closure.
Muslim religious authorities, who administer the compound, are refusing to pray there on Sunday after Israeli authorities installed metal detectors and additional close-circuit television cameras.
“The closure of al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the occupation in itself and the prevention of the call for prayers are all unfair and unjust and constitute a violation to the United Nations resolutions and the international agreements,” Omar Kiswani, director of al-Aqsa mosque, told reporters outside the site.
“We hold the Israeli government responsible for the changes they have made in the al-Aqsa Mosque and taking its control away from us. We will stay outside the mosque until we get back the way it was taken from us.”
Dozens of worshippers gathered to pray at an entrance to the compound next to the Lions’ Gate entry to the Old City, as Israeli security officials look on.
Some women wailed and cried, calling on worshippers not to enter.
The site was shut down during Friday prayers when five people were killed in a shootout – the first time the compound had been closed for prayers in 48 years.
“What happened does not justify this,” Abu Mohammed, who works at a small medical clinic inside the compound, told Al Jazeera. “This is our mosque and we refuse to enter through any electronic gate, this can never be imposed on us.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the additional security measures on Saturday, saying they gave Israel “almost complete control over what goes on” in the compound, to prevent future attacks.
Earlier in the day, Kiswani told Voice of Palestine radio station the additional security measures were part of a “dangerous and unprecedented move” by Israeli authorities “to impose control over al-Aqsa Mosque”.
Israel’s unilateral decision also triggered anger from authorities in Jordan, the custodian of the holy site.
The Jordanian goverment released a statement on Friday demanding Israel immediately open the mosque and warning against steps that could “change the historic status quo in Jerusalem and the mosque”.
Proposals to change security measures at the compound have sparked controversy in the past. Palestinians have long feared what they see as Israeli moves to change the status quo at the holy site.
Standoff continues as of 1400 GMT, because of the installation of the new security measures.
“As far as they [worshippers] are concerned, this is an imposition of Israeli sovereignty on an area, which there should be none, and they are opposing this very strongly,” he said.
SOURCE: News agencies