Palestinian minister warns of ‘Israeli attempts to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque’

Ma’an News Agency– Palestinian Minister of Waqf (Islamic endowment) and Religious Affairs Sheikh Yousif Ideis has warned “of the ongoing attempts by the (Israeli) occupation authorities” to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem through the daily excavations being carried out under the compound.

He said in a statement on Sunday that ongoing excavations under the grounds of the compound could lead to a “religious war in the region,” which he said the Israeli state was igniting every day.

Ideis’ statements came as the Islamic-Christian Committee to Defend Jerusalem and Holy Sites said that sinkholes occurred in the neighborhood of Silwan south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday morning, blaming them on the Israeli excavations in the area.The committee’s public secretary, Hana Issa, said that a number of sinkholes have occurred in the neighborhood in past years, particularly on Wadi al-Hilweh street.

Ideis argued that the Israeli measures represented “obvious violations” of resolutions established by international bodies, the latest being an UNESCO resolution passed last October denouncing Israeli violations in the occupied territory, mainly focusing on policies around Al-Aqsa, which the agency claimed increase tensions between Palestinian worshipers and Jewish visitors, while sparking fears among Palestinians that Israel could further deny their right to access Al-Aqsa.
The resolution notably expressed “deep concern” regarding the illegal demolitions of Umayyad, Ottoman, and Mamluk remains, as well as other intrusive works and excavations in and around the compound, and called upon Israel to halt the measures according to the state’s obligations as an occupying power.
Israel frequently permits excavations and archaeological digs in occupied East Jerusalem, specifically around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, that threaten the structural integrity of Palestinian homes and holy sites in the area.
In the past, tunnels have partially collapsed and caused holes to open up above them, threatening Palestinian homes, roads, and a local mosque.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, cherished as the third holiest site in Islam, is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territory which has been occupied by the Israeli army for almost 50 years.
It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and some Jewish extremists have called for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to build a Third Temple in its place.