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 Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Part of Temple Mount wall 'collapsing'
Western wall
Islamic trustees say the wall is in good condition
Part of the wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is in danger of falling down, say Israeli officials in Jerusalem.

Mayor Ehud Olmert is calling on the Israeli Government to take action to repair the wall, on the southern section of a raised compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif.

His views are backed by a group of Israeli archaeologists.

But the Muslim authorities who run the site have rejected intervention.

The bulge, which is about 10 metres wide, has been noticeable in the wall for several years.

Mr Olmert told Israel Radio: "There are serious grounds for the apprehension that it could collapse.

"In my view, we have reached the moment of truth."

Shuka Dorfman, head of the Israeli Antiquities Committee, told The Jerusalem Post that the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust responsible for the site, had turned down requests by Israeli officials to carry out tests and repairs if necessary.

"The necessary co-operation needed with the Waqf is non-existent," he said.

Waqf director Adnan al-Husayni said Waqf would not agree to intervention by Israel - or any other party - on the compound.

He said that Waqf had been monitoring the situation and began repairing the wall several months ago, but that Israel was trying to cause difficulties over the wall, which is part of the most sensitive religious complex in the world.

The threatened wall ajoins the Western Wall or Wailing Wall - so called because it was there that Jews bewailed the loss of their Temple above it.

That area, now the site of the al-Aqsa mosque, is sacred to Jews and to Muslims.

Political dispute

It was Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit there as Israeli opposition leader in September 2000 that marked the start of the latest wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

al-aqsa mosque compound
There have been repeated disputes over stewardship of the mosque compound
In effect, the dispute is less about structural integrity of the wall, and more about politics and about ownership of perhaps the most disputed site in the Middle East.

During the war in 1967, Israel took control of Arab lands including the old city of Jerusalem.

But the government decided to leave the day-to-day custody of the mosque compound in the hands of Muslim religious authorities.

Since then, there have been repeated disputes between the two sides over stewardship of the site.

But during failed peace talks two years ago, neither side could agree on sovereignty of the compound.


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04 Jul 02 | Middle East
20 Mar 02 | Middle East
28 Sep 00 | issues
28 Sep 00 | Mideast Peace Process
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