Israel reopens access ramp to Al-Aqsa compound: police
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
A general view shows the Mughrabi ramp leading from the plaza by the Western Wall to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the old city of Jerusalem on December 8, 2011. AFP PhotoIsrael on Wednesday reopened a controversial wooden access ramp to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, just over 48 hours after it was closed on safety grounds in a move which had sparked Muslim anger.
"It was opened this morning," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. "It has been opened as normal for visitors, both Christian and Jewish." He said no work had been carried out to stabilise or alter the ramp, but pointed out that a fire engine had been stationed nearby and other unspecified safety precautions put in place.
"It hasn't been touched yet, nobody has changed anything," he said. "The decision was made by the municipality that it can be used again." Jerusalem city council had ordered the ramp to be demolished and a permanent replacement built, saying it posed a fire hazard and could collapse onto the women's prayer section by the Western Wall, the holiest site at which Jews may pray.
It was closed on Sunday night, sparking fierce criticism from the Palestinians as well as from Jordan.
In a compromise, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday ordered that the existing ramp be strengthened to make it safe.
"The government's decision to fortify the ramp and fix its safety shortcomings, in accordance with the city's engineer's orders, ensures the municipality's preliminary demands to ensure the safety of those using it," the city council said on Tuesday.
Muslim leaders said its demolition could have a destabilising effect on the mosque compound, home to the third-holiest site in Islam, and accused Israel of failing to coordinate the renovation with Jerusalem's Islamic Waqf, which oversees Islamic heritage sites, Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina called the closure an Israeli "attack" on efforts to revive moribund peace talks which could shake up the region and the Islamist Hamas movement slammed it as an attack on Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
Jordan's powerful Islamists had denounced the closure as "a very dangerous move" and Amman's Islamic Affairs Minister Abdul Salam Abbadi also denounced the move.
Jordan administered east Jerusalem, where the Old City and its holy sites are located, until Israel seized the sector in the 1967 Middle East war.
In response, Israel accused Jordan of repeatedly reneging on a deal to renovate the ramp, which is the only way that non-Muslims can enter the mosque compound.
The Mughrabi ramp runs from the plaza by the Western Wall up to the walled compound known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Media reports said that in the coming days the ramp would be fireproofed and stabilised.