Conflicting Rules

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Israel will appeal a decision by a lower court this week in favor of three Jewish minors who prayed at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound and questioned a long-standing arrangement with Muslim authorities that prevents Jewish prayer at the contested holy site, Reuters reported.

Earlier this week, the Jerusalem Magistrate Court overturned an order by the Israeli police barring the three individuals for 15 days from the site – which is also known as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Police said the teenagers prostrated themselves and recited the “Shema Yisrael” prayer, adding that the violators were endangering public order. But the court ruled that the appellants had not “(raised) worry of harm befalling national security, public safety or individual security.”

The ruling challenges the decades-long “status quo”: The previous arrangement has allowed non-Muslims to visit the compound as long as they refrain from religious rites.

Palestinian and Jordanian officials criticized the verdict, with Palestinian President Mahmoud calling it “a grave assault against the historic status quo … and a flagrant challenge to international law.”

Israel’s government said that “no change, nor is any change planned, on the status quo of the Temple Mount.” It added that the ruling will be appealed to the higher Jerusalem District Court.

Meanwhile, the court’s judge, Zion Saharay, underlined that his narrow verdict did not change the status quo and that police still had broad authority to keep order at the site, implying that they might continue to prevent Jewish prayer and penalize violators, according to the Times of Israel.

The recent ruling comes amid flaring tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in recent weeks. It also comes less than a week before the annual flag march through Jerusalem’s Old City to commemorate Israel’s conquest of the city in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, described the planned march as “adding fuel to the fire.”

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