Israel demolishes Muslim cemetery near Al Aqsa Mosque to build park


RAMALLAH, West Bank – Israeli police have reinforced the siege at Yusufiya cemetery near Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, while the municipality and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority demolish parts of the cemetery and gravestones from the October 25.

On October 28, Israeli authorities fenced off the walls surrounding the cemetery and installed surveillance cameras, and on October 29, Israeli police fired tear gas to prevent dozens of Jerusalemites from visiting their dead.

The Jerusalem Municipality has been working overtime to demolish more parts of the cemetery since October 17, when the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court rejected a request by the Committee for the Maintenance of Islamic Cemeteries in Jerusalem to suspend shaving bulldozing the cemetery and exhuming the graves.

The Israeli authorities are seeking to transform this part of the cemetery, which includes the monument to the martyrs where Palestinians and Jordanians who fought in the 1967 war are buried, into a public Bible park, around the walls of the Old City.

Yusufiya Cemetery was established at the start of the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem, but it was restored and enlarged during the reign of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi and was named after him – Youssef bin Ayoub bin Shadi. It is an extension of the Bab al-Rahma cemetery. After the occupation of the city in 1967, the municipality of Jerusalem took possession of the part which includes the tombs of the martyrs.

The total area of ​​Yusufiya cemetery is 25 dunums (about 6 acres), four dunums (1 acre) on which Israel aims to build the park. It is one of the four Islamic cemeteries in Jerusalem and it is located near the Jerusalem Wall and the Lions Gate, which is the most important entrance to the Old City.

Najeh Bakirat, deputy director general of the Jerusalem Waqf, told Al-Monitor that the bulldozer is part of a larger Israeli project, which is to build a temple in place of the Al-Aqsa mosque, so he is working on the creation of biblical parks. surrounding the old city and the walls of Al-Aqsa, to overwhelm the public scene of Jerusalem with Judaization.

This work takes place on three levels, Bakirat said. The first is to erase the Arab-Islamic scene, such as cemeteries and Islamic houses, and replace them with Israeli parks that include signs in Hebrew.

He is also trying to displace Muslim Jerusalemites, so many have started to bury their dead outside the city. On the other hand, Israel is increasing the number of Hebrew settlers and attracting them to the city, he explained.

The third approach, Bakirat said, is to replace Arabic names with Hebrew names, as well as changing the general geographic scene. He expects Israel not to stop targeting four dunums in the Yusufiya cemetery, but to continue to nibble at the remaining areas until it takes full control.

Bakirat pointed out that Israel has done the same in the Ma’man Allah cemetery, on which Israel has built the Museum of Tolerance, in addition to tourist facilities. Israel took control of the site in 1948. The municipality built two streets in the western part, then the Independence Park, a huge parking lot, the Leonardo Plaza Jerusalem hotel and several cafes. In the eastern part of the cemetery, he began to build the Museum of Tolerance.

The Palestinian Authority warned against bulldozing Yusufiya cemetery, as President Mahmoud Abbas’ adviser for religious and Islamic affairs Mahmoud al-Habbash spoke on October 27 of the “ongoing crime committed by occupation bulldozers against Yusufiya cemetery in occupied Jerusalem. … It could lead to violent confrontations with the occupying forces in a way that no one expects.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, told Al-Monitor: “The cemeteries are part of the identity of the holy city and its narrative, and testify to the Arab and Islamic presence in the city for thousands of years. years. Erasing monuments from the city is in the interest of the Jewish settlement project and the Israeli narrative, which is embodied by changing the names of Arab towns, neighborhoods and streets, and the Judaization of public places and monuments.

Ahmed Dajani, a member of the Committee for the Maintenance of Islamic Cemeteries in Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor that the area of ​​Yusufiya cemetery that Israel is razing includes the remains of dozens of Jordanian soldiers who died in the war in Israel. 1967. The inhabitants of Jerusalem had to bury them there in light of the curfew imposed on the city at that time.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority are in collusion with the Jerusalem Municipality on the project, Dajani said: “Before starting any project, the Israel Antiquities Authority searches for antiques and bones, but she did not do so in the Yusufiya cemetery. , because the Jerusalem municipality wants to continue the project no matter what, even though it knows who owns the remains buried there. “

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