Coronavirus shuts Al-Aqsa’s enclosed prayer places

Palestinians gather at al-Aqsa Mosque compound (AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  March 15, 2020

Enclosed prayer places at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque have been shut in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus, the authority responsible for overseeing the city’s Islamic and Christian holy sites announced on Sunday, Anadolu Agency reports.

“The Islamic Waqf Department decided to close the enclosed prayer places as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, the director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, said in a statement.

“All prayers will be held in the [outdoor] courtyard and all doors will remain open to worshipers,” he said.

Al-Aqsa compound consists of several enclosed prayer places, including the Dome of the Rock mosque.

Palestinian authorities have reported 38 cases of coronavirus in the West Bank.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the virus known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 141 countries and territories.

The global death toll from the virus has surpassed 5,700 with more than 152,000 cases confirmed worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

A vast majority of those who become infected recover from the illness.