The Western Wall Heritage Foundation blocked off the Mughrabi Bridge which connects the Western Wall and the Temple Mount on Monday in a move which may spark a conflict with Jordan. The bridge was sealed off on Sunday following an order by the Jerusalem city engineer who warned of safety hazards.
The foundation said it was following safety guidelines. Over the weekend, Jordan warned Israel against changing the status quo in the area despite the fact that the bridge serves only Jews and tourists.
Last week, the Jerusalem Municipality announced that the city's engineer was about to issue an order to immediately close the bridge as it poses a safety hazard being highly flammable and in danger of collapsing.
Bridge connets Kotel, Temple Mount (Photo: EPA)
The temporary structure has yet to be demolished due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fear of Muslim outrage and a wave of riots.
More than a month ago, Jerusalem's engineer cautioned that the temporary structure was a public hazard based on the opinion of the city's fire services chief and a municipal expert on the matter. The two determined the bridge is made up of flammable materials which do not meet building standards. A municipal statement warned against a second Carmel Fire which may erupt if a fire breaks out in the area.
The Waqf, which is responsible for the Temple Mount compound, said that they were not consulted with on the closing of the bridge. "This is a sensitive issue," the Waqf director said.
"The bridge is so close to the mosque. Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims around the world will not be happy about this." He said that they think that Israel is trying to hurt their tradition in the guise of safety concerns.
Line forming outside closed bridge (Photo: Arnon Segal)
Hundreds of worshippers, tourists and members of the security forces pass through the bridge every day. Jews will not be allowed to enter the Temple Mount once the bridge is closed. The city's engineer said that the area will be completely sealed off with the exception of security forces who will be allowed to use the bridge for urgent cases such as Temple Mount riots.
As expected, the move drew extensive criticism by Palestinian and Arab officials. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the closing of the bridge "is a declaration of war against Muslim holy places" in Jerusalem. He claimed that the move "reflects the seriousness of the Israeli plan to harm the al-Aqsa mosque."
Hamas' political party issued a statement saying that the closing of the bridge amounted to a religious war. "Israel continues to hurt the holy city in order to Judaise it and change its monuments." The party called on the Palestinians to maintain a unified front against Israeli grievances.
Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood also condemned the decision. "The Israeli move is very dangerous," Hamam Said said. "This is a blow to Arab leaders who signed agreements and contacts with the Jews."
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