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Jerusalem holy site closure ‘crime against humanity’: Turkey

Palestinian Muslim worshippers, who refuse to enter Al-Aqsa mosque compound due to newly-implemented security measures by Israeli authorities which include metal detectors and cameras, pray outside the Lions Gate, a main entrance to Al-Aqsa mosque compound, in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 17, 2017. Israel reopened the ultra-sensitive holy site, after it was closed following an attack by Arab Israeli men in which two Israeli policemen were killed.  AFP PHOTO

Istanbul, Turkey | AFP | Turkey on Monday blasted Israel’s two-day closure of a Jerusalem holy site, following a deadly attack, as a “crime against humanity.”

The Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, includes the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

It is venerated by Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam, and by Jews as the most sacred site in Judaism.

Israel closed the ultra-sensitive compound on Friday and Saturday after the attack .

“This decision is a crime against humanity, a crime committed against the freedom of religion. From the point of view of human rights, it’s utterly unacceptable,” Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus, who is also deputy prime minister, said.

“It really is an unacceptable decision, and wounding to the highest degree,” added Kurtulmus, who was speaking at a news conference in Ankara after a cabinet meeting.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a fervent supporter of Palestinians, normalised relations with Israel in June last year after bilateral ties deteriorated over a 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship that killed 10 Turkish activists.

However, ties remain volatile. In May, Erdogan spoke out angrily over legal plans in Israel to prevent the use of loudspeakers on minarets to summon Muslims for nightly prayers.

Erdogan accused Israel of practices similar to South African apartheid — remarks that caused Israel to angrily describe him as a “serial human rights violator.”

Last week in contrast, Israel said Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, would visit by year’s end to conclude an agreement for the building of a gas pipeline linking the two countries.

Friday’s attack saw three Arab Israelis open fire on Israeli police, killing two, before fleeing into the compound, where they were shot dead by security forces.

It was among the most serious incidents in Jerusalem in recent years and heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Israeli authorities said the gunmen had come from the flashpoint holy site to carry out the attack.

They took the highly unusual decision of closing the compound for two days and then installed metal detectors at its entrances, triggering anger from Muslim worshippers.


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