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Jerusalem al-Aqsa mosque reopens after 70-day coronavirus lockdown

Jerusalem's disputed Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif holy site opened its gates on Sunday, ending a 70-day coronavirus lockdown of the compound that houses the al-Aqsa Mosque as well as the ruins of the Jewish Biblica Temple. 

Jerusalem’s disputed Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif holy site opened its gates on Sunday, ending a 70-day coronavirus lockdown of the compound that houses the al-Aqsa Mosque as well as the ruins of the Jewish Biblica Temple.

Thousands of Mulism worshippers, many of them cheering, streamed through the gates to the raised platform and the doors of al-Aqsa Mosque after they opened at 3.30 am (0030 GMT), the official Palestinian Wafa news site reported.

Al-Aqsa Mosque Director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani called on worshippers to respect the 2-metre social distancing rule.

The mosque, adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, and an large outdoor courtyard around both chapels were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, Wafa reported.

Israeli police were on heightened alert in Jerusalem’s historic and walled Old City, which houses the holy site, for fear of unrest after an autistic Palestinian was shot dead outside Lion’s Gate on Saturday following a brief pursuit by two border policemen on foot because he did not heed calls to freeze.

The al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, was closed on March 15, an extremely rare measure taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Muslims revere al-Harem al-Sharif as the site from where their Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.

It also houses the remnants of the Jewish Biblical Temple and as such it the holiest site in Judaism. Nationalist Jews insist on their “historic right” to make pilgrimages onto the compound, in small groups escorted by Israeli police.

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