An Israeli minister is raising fears about the possibility the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem could collapse on worshipers during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan next month, and he recommends limiting the number of people entering the Temple Mount.
Interior Security Minister Gideon Ezra warned that a damaged section of the 2,000-year-old eastern wall of the compound could come down on throngs of worshipers. More than 200,000 Muslims are expected to visit the compound for Ramadan services.
Ezra urged that work to strengthen the mosque plaza should start immediately or warned Israel would need to limit access during Ramadan for safety reasons.
Ezra’s concerns echo a recent report by Israel’s Technion Institute that found the eastern wall of the Temple Mount may cave in on an underground architectural support of the mount, known as the Solomon’s Stables. The underground site, which was converted by the Islamic Wakf in the late 1990s into what is now the largest mosque in Israel, can accommodate up to 30,000 worshipers.
Ezra told Israeli public radio that “the roof of this structure is at risk of collapsing under the weight of the worshipers. … Israel cannot take such a risk.”
Ezra said he doubted the problems could be fixed in time for Ramadan.
Israeli officials have said any structural catastrophe at the shrine would be blamed by the Islamic world on Israel, and could aggravate violence in the region.