AMMAN, Jordan: More than 30,000 Muslims attended Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque while respecting stricter health conditions imposed by the Jerusalem Waqf Department.
Sheikh Azzam Khatib, director general of the Jordanian Waqf Department in Jerusalem, said that the stricter conditions were brought in because of the uptick in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Jerusalem and in other Palestinian towns.
“We issued numerous statements, videos and other announcements telling worshippers that they must bring their own prayer mat and mask and that we will implement a strict physical separation,” he told Arab News.
Khatib said that the Health Ministry’s announcement of 72 coronavirus cases in the Jerusalem area was very disturbing. “We were worried seeing the numbers of those contracting the virus while many events, including weddings and other public gatherings, were being held without any adherence to basic anti-COVID-19 health requirements.”
He added that the Jerusalem Waqf did not want to be held responsible for the spread of the deadly disease.
“We take our responsibilities seriously and we don’t want to be blamed for facilitating the spread of the virus. We also don’t want to give an excuse to the Israelis to prevent worshippers from accessing the mosque again.”
Khalil Assali, a member of the Jerusalem Waqf Council, said that the waqf director and staff had no choice but to strictly follow the Health Ministry’s requirements.
“We noticed an increase in visits to pray in Al-Aqsa from Palestinian citizens of Israel and we have been worried about the potential of the spread of the virus, especially during the entry and exit of worshippers when they crowd around the gates and alleys,” he told Arab News.
Waqf staff as well as volunteers were deployed all over the Haram Al-Sharif, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to ensure strict adherence to the waqf department’s orders.
Wedding parties have been banned in all governorates across the West Bank, the Palestinian government said last Tuesday, because the number of infections were rising.
“Due to the increase in the number of coronavirus infections during the past 24 hours and in order to avoid the spread of the epidemic … With regret, the government has decided to ban wedding celebrations in all governorates in order to keep you and your community safe from any harm,” it said.
The Palestinian government ended a two-month lockdown on May 25, allowing all sectors to reopen.