Worshipers leave Temple Mount
Police say dozens of Muslims entrenched in al-Aqsa Mosque already left on Friday, but hundreds of Muslims say they remained in mosque for nine days 'to protect it with our bodies from extremist Jews'. Chairman of Higher Arab Monitoring Committee blames 'Israeli occupation' for situation
Representatives of the hundreds of Muslim worshippers who claimed to be entrenched in the al-Aqsa mosque in recent days held a press conference in the Wadi Joz neighborhood in Jerusalem in which they spoke of how they "defended the holy place from the occupation".
According to the worshippers, hundreds of people from around Israel remained in the mosque for nine days, in order to protect the site, with their own bodies, from the entrance of extremist Jews, and only left the mosque on Sunday.
The police, on the other hand, said earlier Sunday, "There is no one entrenched in the al-Aqsa Mosque. Throughout last week there were several dozens of adult Muslim worshippers, who left the mosque when the Mount opened on Friday to worshippers of all ages."
Palestinian sources said on Saturday that Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ali al-Ayed brokered an agreement with Israel allowing the hundreds of worshippers who entrenched themselves in the Temple Mount to come out without being arrested.
The police, however, stressed that they had entrenched themselves by choice, and were free to leave whenever they choose.
Senior officials from the Islamic Movement's northern branch were present at Sunday's press conference, as well as Chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Muhammad Zidan, who told Ynet that "the occupation is responsible for what happened and what is happening in al-Aqsa, and not (head of the Islamic Movement's northern Branch) Sheikh Raed Salah".
'No one dared to approach'
The Islamic Movement representative in Lod, Sheikh Yousef Albaz, was among those entrenched in the mosque, and said he did so for one purpose: "Our main goal was to prevent the entrance of Jewish settlers and no one dared to approach, we stood there and were ready for any situation. When the holiday ended, we felt that we had achieved our goal and decided of our own free will to leave."
Albaz told the crowd, "We had learned that the Israeli occupation planned to allow settlers into the mosque and as long as the occupation is in the al-Aqsa Mosque, we will defend it with our bodies."
Last Wednesday, members of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee visited the Temple mount and met with the worshippers who insisted on staying in the mosque – Muslims from all sides of the political spectrum. "We heard from them that they are guarding the mosque from extremist Jews, and I say that all the Muslims in the world would be willing to become martyrs for the mosque if it was in danger," Zidan said.
The committee's chairman also wished to convey a message to the Israeli government, "The arrows pointed at Sheikh Raed Salah are misguided. He is not personally responsible, he is merely reflecting our religious belief, which is the belief of all Muslims around the world. They want to put the responsibility on the Islamic Movement, and I say: What is really responsible is the Israeli occupation."