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Islamic council rejects Israeli court closure at holy site

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JERUSALEM (AP) — The Islamic authority that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem has rejected an Israeli court order to close a religious hall that has ignited tension between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police in recent weeks.

Sheikh Abdelazeem Salhab, chairman of the Waqf Council appointed by neighboring Jordan, said Tuesday that the structure, called Mercy Gate, would "remain open for Muslims to pray," despite Israel's ultimatum to close the site by next Monday.

Salhab demanded that Israel permit the Waqf to renovate the building and revoke orders banning dozens of Waqf officials, guards and worshippers from the sacred compound.

Israel sealed off the structure in 2003, claiming it was home to a group with ties to Islamic militants. The Waqf has recently challenged the closure, convening and staging prayer-protests in the area.

Associated Press

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