Covid Restrictions could Shut Down Temple Mount to Muslims on Monday

As Israel’s coronavirus rate rises, Israel’s National Security Council (NSC) will decide on Sunday on the issue of Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount as per health department restrictions. Officials reported that 18-22,000 Muslims worshipped on the Temple Mount every Friday in recent months while observing few, if any, social distancing measures.

East Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter and the Temple Mount, is categorized as one of the 30 pandemic “red zones” and will face a shut-down. This area also includes other holy sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

Israel is currently experiencing a new spike in cases, becoming the 49th country to pass 1,000 deaths. Israeli television reported on Thursday that Israel has  1,493 new infections, the highest rate of new infections per capita in the world. The percentage of positive tests stood at 9.8%.

In total there have been 129,349 cases since the start of the pandemic, 26,062 of which are active. There were 445 patients hospitalized in serious condition, of whom 119 were being treated with ventilators, the Health Ministry said. Additionally, 155 people were in moderate condition.

In early March, the Waqf (Muslim authority) opposed a move by Israeli officials to limit the Friday prayers. The health restrictions were eventually imposed on March 15 for two months though occasional confrontations between Arabs and Israeli police did break out. 

As part of an agreement to convince the Muslim authority to comlply, the Israeli government agreed to prohibit Jews from visiting the site despite social distancing procedures being observed. 

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