Last updated: 13 December, 2011

Israel to reinforce and reopen Al Aqsa access ramp

Israel will reopen the controversial wooden access ramp to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque complex in the next few days after completing works to ensure its safety, Israeli media reported Tuesday.

On Sunday, Israel closed the Mughrabi access ramp over public safety concerns.

But in the coming days, work will be conducted to ensure the existent temporary bridge, leading from the Western Wall to the mosque compound — which is also the holiest area in Judaism — is both fireproof and stable, press reports said.

The Jerusalem municipality, which had ordered the ramp’s closure, said “the government’s decision to fortify the bridge and fix its safety shortcomings, in accordance with the city’s engineer’s orders, ensures the municipality’s preliminary demands to ensure the safety of those using the bridge.”

The municipality also expressed “regret” over the government’s ongoing failure to deal with the “ugly and dilapidated hazard in the heart of the Western Wall and entrance to the Temple Mount.”

The Israeli decision to renovate rather than demolish the Mughrabi walkway was understood to be a move to prevent a crisis with Jordan, which is custodian of the Waqf and is responsible for Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

Amman has frequently spoken out against removal of the ramp, which is one of the 15 gates leading into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, 10 of which are in use.

The Mughrabi Gate is the only access for non-Muslims to enter the site, meaning its closure will prevent both Jews and tourists from visiting until a replacement structure is built.

The ramp leads from the plaza by the Western Wall, the most sacred site at which Jews can pray, up to the adjoining compound, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque.