The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. | Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia
A fire broke out at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem on Monday around the same time as a blaze ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Newsweek reported.
The Palestine News Agency, which is the official outlet of the Palestine National Authority, said the fire broke out in a guard’s room outside the roof of the Marwani Prayer Room. The fire was doused by Islamic Waqf’s fire brigade, according to Russia Today.
Video clips posted on social media showed smoke rising from the top of the Marwani Prayer Room which is also known as Solomon’s Stables. The mosque is located on top of the Temple Mount and is considered the third holiest site in Islam. It has been at the centre of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.
The cause of the fire is not known yet. Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director general of the Jerusalem Waqf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs Department, suggested that the fire could have been started by children who were seen playing in the area.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned against targeting the holy site. He called for preserving the compound’s “great religious and humanitarian value.”
A massive fire engulfed the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, on Monday. The cathedral’s spire collapsed under the fire, which raged for hours. The blaze also spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers. The fire was brought under control on Tuesday morning.
حريق داخل المسجد الأقصى !
النيران التهمت غرفة حراس المصلى المرواني بالمسجد . pic.twitter.com/oYEbPLXjiL— منصور أبو عبيدة (@Mansorryaan) April 15, 2019
The mosque compound is located in the Old City section of East Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordan in 1967. Israel annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move, but Jordan’s monarchy was granted custodial rights over the Islamic holy sites, according to Newsweek.
In 2017, United States President Donald Trump formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, calling it “a long overdue step to advance the peace process”. Israel called the decision “historic”, even as several countries and the United Nations, the European Union and the Vatican, criticised the move.
The United Nations Security Council later voted against the United States’ decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.