Israel Report

October 2001         

Monumental Moslem Construction Work Damages South Temple Wall and Drives Cracks in Al Aqsa Mosque Walls

Source: Debka - Oct.02.01
The small protrusion forming ominously in the 2000-year old Southern Wall of Temple Mount - just over the Second Temple's Triple Gate - together with spreading cracks in the fabric of the Al Aqsa Mosque which abuts that wall, are being reworked into fresh fuel for Yasser Arafat's bid to place himself and the Jerusalem shrines at the center of the international war against terrorism. In this way, he hopes to divert world attention from Osama Bin Laden and focus it on purported Israeli terrorism against Moslems.

DEBKAfile's Palestinian sources report that the September 11 terrorist assaults in New York and Washington left Arafat resentful, feeling that the world jihad's No.1 spot has been snatched from him by the ex-Saudi terrorist.

The alarming damage to the ancient sites developed from five years of unsupervised Islamic construction work aimed at turning the Crusader "Solomon's Stables" and the adjoining chambers under Al Aqsa - with their Second Temple relics - into the biggest mosque in the Middle East.

Carried out by the Islamic religious authority (the Waqf) and the Israeli Islamic Movement under its leader, Sheik Raed Salah, the project was over-ambitious. It now proves to have been marred by serious engineering mistakes. No Israeli or international engineers, historians or scholars were allowed to inspect the work on a site - although it is sacred to three faiths - as required by Israel municipal regulations and national laws governing the protection of historical and religious monuments.

Successive Israeli governments, fearing an international Islamic backlash, allowed the underground excavations and construction to go forward, unchecked and unsupervised. Every demand by the Israeli authorities and international archeologists to access the project was met with angry refusals.

After the project sprang serious faults, instead of calling for help to rescue those unique shrines, the Palestinians, who would be guardians of Jerusalem's holy places, turned to their age-old tactic of railroading Israel.

The opening shots are discernible. Two weeks ago, Sheikh Salah told his congregation in Umm al Fahm about the cracks and crumbling patches in the Al Aqsa Mosque wall. But, he added suggestively, the "neighbors" (sic - the mosque has no neighbors) had heard mysterious sounds of digging in the small hours.

Monday October 1, Palestinian Authority spokesman Ahmed Abdul Rahman announced gravely over Radio Palestine that Israel planned to exploit a small stone that a few days ago fell off the top of the Western Wall of Temple Mount, the Jewish prayer place, to move in and take control of the entire Moslem site. He also mentioned the cracks, but declared, without explaining how, that they were part of the Israeli plot and Israel would be held accountable. Al Aqsa, which like the rest of Jerusalem, is located in the earthquake-prone African Rift Valley region, has been destroyed by earthquake seven times since it was built by the city's first Moslem conquerors in the seventh century. The new construction has weakened the structure, so that a tremor could well compound the damage. The right kind of propaganda, alleging Jewish culpability, and the repeated call to "Defend Al Aqsa!", might rally the Islamic world in a flash against Israel - which Arafat's intifada has so far failed to do. The Palestinian leader has now begun to hope that a catastrophe on the Haram might even be built up to outdo the impact of Bin Laden's assaults in the United States.

The Moslem builders are not yet done. Using forbidden heavy earthmoving equipment, they are now excavating a northerly channel on the Temple Plaza heading in the direction of the Dome of the Rock, whose gilt and blue faience facade dominate the Jerusalem skyline.

Breaking into the bedrock in this area, archeologists warn DEBKAfile, would also harm the gold-topped Dome, which sits on that rock. The damage to the Islamic sites comes on top of the destruction of unique relics and artifacts from Jewish Temple, Byzantine, Crusader and medieval times, that the Moslem builders smashed and dumped, in defiance of protests from scholars around the world and warnings from engineers. The Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem and Sheikh Salah simply echoed Yasser Arafat's assertion that the Temple Mount, including the Western Wall, is a Moslem site and no Jewish Temples ever existed. Ergo - no relics.

To make sure this was true, Salah's builders did what they could to obliterate every trace of an historic Jewish presence above and below the ground of Temple Mount.

But they forgot to take this into account: The Islamic structures were built on the early foundations of that presence and were supported by them. Therefore, by their acts of vandalism, the new Moslem builders have also wrought irreparable damage to sites holy to Islam.

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