Israel Police, Palestinians Clash At Flashpoint Jerusalem Holy Site

Photo: Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP

 

Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers clashed at a flash point Jerusalem holy site on Sunday as overlapping Jewish and Muslim holidays led to tensions there, an AFP journalist reported.

Police fired sound grenades as Palestinian protests intensified at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported injuries without specifying a number.

Sunday marked the start of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday and thousands of Palestinians prayed at the Al-Aqsa mosque.

It coincided with the Jewish Tisha B’av holiday, which typically sees an increase in Jewish visits to the holy site.

In a bid to ease tensions, police barred Jewish visits to the site on Sunday but Muslim worshippers still feared they would be allowed in and protested there. The clashes with police broke out afterward.

The compound, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is one of the most sensitive sites in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is the third-holiest site in Islam and the most sacred for Jews, who revere it as the location of the two biblical-era temples.

It is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

More Than Two Million Muslims On Hajj Pilgrimage

Muslim pilgrims perform the “Tawaf al-Ifada”, a mandatory circumambulation around the Kaaba (the Cube), Islam’s holiest shrine, at the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on August 11, 2019, following their descent from Mount Arafat.
FETHI BELAID / AFP

 

More than two million Muslims are participating in the annual hajj under sweltering conditions, as the Saudi hosts sought to deter politicisation of the pilgrimage against a backdrop of simmering Gulf tensions.

The hajj, one of the world’s largest annual religious gatherings, is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.

It consists of a series of religious rites which are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia. The annual hajj began on Friday.

“All of the arms of the state have been deployed (and) we are proud to serve as ‘God’s hosts’,” said security forces spokesman Bassam Attia.

“We feel cleansed by achieving this pillar of Islam and meeting people from across the world. It’s marvellous,” said Mohamed Jaafar, a 40-year-old Egyptian pilgrim.

‘A golden opportunity’

“It’s an indescribable feeling. You have to live it to understand it,” said an Algerian in his fifties completing the pilgrimage for the first time.

“It’s a golden opportunity and moment,” said his female companion.

Built in a desert valley, Mecca is home to the Kaaba, a cube structure that is the focal point of Islam and draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth.

Muslims around the world pray towards the Kaaba, which is located in the Grand Mosque, and pilgrims walk around it seven times.

Earlier on Friday, worshippers took part in Friday prayers at the mosque.

Pilgrims from around the world then headed on foot or on buses to Mina, a rugged district of Mecca at the base of Mount Arafat, where the faithful will spend Friday night.

A total of “350,000 air-conditioned tents have been pitched” in Mina, a Saudi official said.

Cooling mist sprays were deployed across the area as temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Mobile clinics and ambulances were on standby along the route, while Saudi Red Crescent helicopters monitored the pilgrims’ progress from the sky.

“The whole world is here… being here in Mecca is the best feeling,” beamed Mohamed Barry, a pilgrim from Britain.

Saudi officials said that 2.26 million pilgrims had arrived in Mina by late Friday, of which 1.86 million were from abroad, the state-run SPA news agency reported.

On Saturday worshippers will climb Mount Arafat, also known as the “Mount of Mercy”, for hours of prayers and Koran recitals.

After descending, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.

That marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, marked on Sunday.

Pilgrims then return to the Grand Mosque to perform a final “tawaf” or walk around the Kaaba.

‘Politicising the hajj’

This year’s hajj takes place to a backdrop of Gulf tensions following a series of attacks on tankers, the downing of drones and the seizure of ships.

Riyadh blames regional foe Tehran for the attacks on commercial shipping, accusations Iran vehemently denies.

Despite the absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries, some 88,550 Iranian pilgrims are due to take part in the hajj this year according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

As in previous years, Saudi authorities have been at pains to stress that the hajj is a religious event and have sought to prevent its politicisation.

Riyadh insisted its two-year embargo on Doha — which includes restrictions on Qataris travelling to the kingdom — would not affect the pilgrimage.

But hajj official Hassan Qadi acknowledged “very few Qataris have come to Mecca for the pilgrimage”.

Saudi Arabia’s hajj ministry accused Qatar of “politicising the hajj and creating obstacles for Qatari pilgrims,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The scale of the pilgrimage presents vast security and logistical challenges, with tens of thousands of safety officers deployed.

Riyadh faced strong criticism in 2015 when some 2,300 worshippers were killed in the worst stampede in the gathering’s history.

Hajj Pilgrimage: Speaker Gbajabiamila, Aisha Buhari Meet In Mecca

 

Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and First Lady, Aisha Buhari, have met in Mecca where they are currently performing the hajj pilgrimage.

Photos of the meeting where share on the Twitter page of the Speaker.

His tweet reads:

With the First Lady @aishambuhari in Mecca. May Allah answer our prayers for unity peace and progress for our beloved country.

The First Lady was also in the holy land in May, when she and President Muhammadu Buhari performed the Umrah.

Below are photos from the meeting.

The Hajj

More than two million Muslims began the annual hajj Friday under sweltering conditions, as the Saudi hosts sought to deter politicisation of the pilgrimage against a backdrop of simmering Gulf tensions.

The hajj, one of the world’s largest annual religious gatherings, is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.

It consists of a series of religious rites which are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.

“All of the arms of state have been deployed (and) we are proud to serve as ‘God’s hosts’,” said security forces spokesman Bassam Attia.

“We feel cleansed by achieving this pillar of Islam and meeting people from across the world. It’s marvellous,” said Mohamed Jaafar, a 40-year-old Egyptian pilgrim.

 ‘A golden opportunity’

“It’s an indescribable feeling. You have to live it to understand it,” said an Algerian in his fifties completing the pilgrimage for the first time.

“It’s a golden opportunity and moment,” said his female companion.

Built in a desert valley, Mecca is home to the Kaaba, a cube structure that is the focal point of Islam and draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth.

Muslims around the world pray towards the Kaaba, which is located in the Grand Mosque, and pilgrims walk around it seven times.

Earlier on Friday, worshippers took part in Friday prayers at the mosque.

Pilgrims from around the world then headed on foot or on buses to Mina, a rugged district of Mecca at the base of Mount Arafat, where the faithful will spend Friday night.

A total of “350,000 air-conditioned tents have been pitched” in Mina, a Saudi official said.

Cooling mist sprays were deployed across the area as temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Mobile clinics and ambulances were on standby along the route, while Saudi Red Crescent helicopters monitored the pilgrims’ progress from the sky.

“The whole world is here… being here in Mecca is the best feeling,” beamed Mohamed Barry, a pilgrim from Britain.

Saudi officials said that 2.26 million pilgrims had arrived in Mina by late Friday, of which 1.86 million were from abroad, the state-run SPA news agency reported.

On Saturday worshippers will climb Mount Arafat, also known as the “Mount of Mercy”, for hours of prayers and Koran recitals.

After descending, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.

That marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, marked on Sunday.

Pilgrims then return to the Grand Mosque to perform a final “tawaf” or walk around the Kaaba.

‘Politicising the hajj’

This year’s hajj takes place to a backdrop of Gulf tensions following a series of attacks on tankers, the downing of drones and the seizure of ships.

Riyadh blames regional foe Tehran for the attacks on commercial shipping, accusations Iran vehemently denies.

Despite the absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries, some 88,550 Iranian pilgrims are due to take part in the hajj this year according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

As in previous years, Saudi authorities have been at pains to stress that the hajj is a religious event and have sought to prevent its politicisation.

Riyadh insisted its two-year embargo on Doha — which includes restrictions on Qataris travelling to the kingdom — would not affect the pilgrimage.

But hajj official Hassan Qadi acknowledged “very few Qataris have come to Mecca for the pilgrimage”.

Saudi Arabia’s hajj ministry accused Qatar of “politicising the hajj and creating obstacles for Qatari pilgrims,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The scale of the pilgrimage presents vast security and logistical challenges, with tens of thousands of safety officers deployed.

Riyadh faced strong criticism in 2015 when some 2,300 worshippers were killed in the worst stampede in the gathering’s history.

Hajj: Pilgrims Protest Against Alleged Neglect

Pilgrims Protest Against Alleged Neglect

 

 

Scores of hajj pilgrims have protested against their alleged abandonment by relevant authorities.

They staged the protest on Monday at the Hajj Camp of the Ilorin International Airport in the Kwara State capital.

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The pilgrims who are from Ondo and Ekiti states accused an airline of not having a definite time to airlift them to Saudi Arabia.

They claimed that they have been sleeping in the open and cheated by food sellers in the camp through exorbitant fees.

The protesters said two pilgrims fainted and called on the Federal Government to come to their aid.

See photos below:

Buhari Accepts Invitation Of Saudi King, To Embark On Pilgrimage

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has accepted the invitation of King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, the ruler of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to perform the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) in the Kingdom.

This is according to a statement by the President’s special aide, Garba Shehu.

To this effect, the President, accompanied by close personal aides, will embark on the journey on Thursday, 16th May.

READ ALSO: Military Dissociates Self From Call To Topple Buhari’s Administration

He is expected back in the country on Tuesday, 21st May.

Umrah is an optional but recommended pilgrimage to Makkah that can be made at any time of the year.

Ogun Hajj Board Denies Death Of Pilgrims

The Chairman, Ogun State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr Izhaq Yusuf, has denied media reports that some Ogun pilgrims currently performing hajj n Saudi Araba were among those confirmed dead in the holy land.

According to him, no casualty has been recorded at the State’s pilgrim’s camp in Saudi Arabia.

Yusuf who made this known in Mina, Saudi Arabia, said it was imperative to clear the air as a result of some reports of the death of unidentified Nigerian pilgrims in the holy land.

He said the Saudi authority had reported the death of 500 pilgrims taking part in the ongoing Hajj, while the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria had also confirmed officially that five Nigerians were among those who died.

The Chairman while stating that the state’s delegation would leave for Mount Arafat today (Thursday) after noon for prayers, expressed gratitude to Allah for keeping the pilgrims in sound health.assuring that officials of the board were working tirelessly to ensure a successful hajj operation.

Furthermore, he stated that officials of the board were working tirelessly to ensure a successful hajj operation.

Pilgrims Scale Mount Arafat For Peak Of Hajj

Muslim pilgrims walk and pray on Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on the eve of Arafat Day which is the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage on August 30, 2017. KARIM SAHIB / AFP

Some two million Muslims from around the world began gathering on Thursday on Mount Arafat for the highlight of the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia dedicated to prayers and reflection.

Helicopters flew around the area as the faithful converged from dawn on the surrounding Mount Arafat plain and the hill known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy.

Dressed in white, the pilgrims could be seen climbing up the sides of the hill and taking up positions to pray on rocks already heated by the morning sun.

On the concrete pathways linking the plain to the hill, they invoked God as they walked with their palms facing the sky.

Others rested in makeshift tents or on sheets along the side of the road amid empty bottles and waste.

The second day of the hajj, a must for all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it is dedicated to prayer and reflection.

Arafat is the site where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed gave his last sermon about 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on the pilgrimage.

“I went up last night and prayed, taking pictures and calling my family and friends,” said Maia, 32-year-old from Jakarta.

It was still not even 10:00 am and temperatures were already over 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).

In a hospital opposite the mountain, an area was set aside for people who suffer in the heat.

“We have deployed 326 ambulances on the pilgrimage route so they can take care of the sick very quickly,” said Meshal Alanazi of the Red Crescent.

In the evening, the pilgrims will travel to Muzdalifa where they will stay the night before taking part in a symbolic stoning of the devil.

The ritual at the Jamarat Bridge was the scene of a stampede in 2015 that claimed the lives of 2,300 pilgrims — the worst disaster in the history of the hajj.

At the foot of Mount Arafat, mobile barriers have been installed to control the movement of the crowds.

“They will be moved to enlarge the passages when there are more pilgrims,” said Ahmed al-Baraka of the Saudi security forces.

The kingdom has deployed more than 100,000 security personnel to keep pilgrims safe at this year’s hajj, according to the interior ministry.

AFP

Hajj: Saraki Joins Other Muslim Faithful In Saudi Arabia

Senate President, CCT, Saraki

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has joined other Muslim faithful in Saudi Arabia for this year’s hajj.

This was made known in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu.

According to the statement, the Senate President who flew out of Abuja on Monday night is expected to “spend the period of the pilgrimage to pray for the unity, stability and development of Nigeria as well as better health for the leader of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari.

“He will also spend the period of the holy pilgrimage to pray for more success for the Eighth National Assembly in the execution of its Legislative Agenda which is aimed at helping to improve the standard of living of the citizenry and positively transform the national economy.

“The Senate President is expected back early September when the Hajj rites would have been completed by pilgrims,” the statement read.

1.4 Million Pilgrims Arrive In Saudi Arabia Before Hajj

File Photo

More than 1.4 million Muslims have so far arrived in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, authorities said on Thursday, with the annual pilgrimage marked by the return of Iranians after Tehran’s boycott last year.

More than two million people are expected to participate in this year’s hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in their lives, which starts next week.

“So far 1,313,946 pilgrims have arrived by air, 79,501 by land, and 12,477 by sea — an increase of 33 percent compared with the same period last year,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency said, citing passport officials.

That includes more than 400 Qatari pilgrims, local media reported, despite an intensifying row between Doha and Riyadh over arrangements for the religious event.

All Qatari pilgrims arrived through the Salwa border crossing with Qatar.

The hajj has been clouded by the worst political crisis in the Gulf in decades, with Saudi Arabia leading a four-state bloc that suspended all ties with Doha on June 5 over accusations the emirate backed Islamist extremists.

Qatar has denied the charge and said this week it was worried pilgrims from the emirate would be treated badly.

But the Saudi media has repeatedly broadcast images showing officials courteously assisting Qatari pilgrims.

The hajj ministry has said the kingdom, home to Islam’s holiest sites, welcomes all pilgrims from different nationalities.

The ministry added it was equipped to handle the additional crowds after the completion of expansion works at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the most revered site in Islam.
More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year’s hajj.

But Iran’s 64,000 pilgrims stayed away for the first time in three decades after tensions between Riyadh and Tehran boiled over following a deadly stampede during the 2015 pilgrimage.

An agreement was reached earlier this year to allow Iranians to take part in the hajj.

Iran and Saudi Arabia will soon exchange diplomatic visits, Tehran said this week, in a possible sign of tensions easing after the archrivals cut ties last year.

AFP

Legalise Your Operations Or Face Sanctions, Agency Tells Illegal Hajj Operators

hajjThe National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has given an ultimatum to illegal Hajj and Umrah operators to legalise their operations or face sanctions.

Addressing journalists, the Chief Information Officer of NAHCON, Mousa Ubandanwaki, said no fewer than 100 companies had been given marching orders by the commission to legalise their operations or risk prosecutions.

He said the commission’s team of inspectors currently on inspection and verification exercise across the count discovered that the companies were operating unregistered Hajj and Umrah companies.

“The breakdown of the figure shows that Kano has the largest number of unregistered operators with 77 of the 130 companies discovered not to have registered and this is followed by Lagos with 15 of the 74 inspected companies in the area.

“The ongoing inspection and verification across the country was part of the commission’s security architecture to end all forms of illegal activities by conmen who posed as Hajj and Umrah operators to swindle unsuspecting members of the public.

“It is our utmost desire to rid the Hajj and Umrah operator’s industry of quacks and conmen after this inspection and anyone that refuses to comply will have himself to blame,” he added.

Muslims Gather At Mount Arafat

Mount Arafat, HajjThe annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has reached its climax with 1.5 million Muslims gathering at Mount Arafat to offer day-long prayers and recitations from the Koran.

The pilgrims congregated from sunrise at the site and the vast plain which surrounds it, about 15 kilometres from Mecca.

Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon at this location.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which all Muslims are called upon to perform at least once.

Reports suggest Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, would not deliver the traditional hajj sermon for the first time in 35 years because of health complications.

Iran has boycotted this year’s pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia and Iran do not have diplomatic relations and are at loggerheads over a series of regional issues including the conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

Hajj: Gombe Declares Five Pilgrims Missing

PilgrimsFive pilgrims from Gombe State have been declared missing in Saudi Arabia.

The Executive Secretary, Gombe State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr. Usman Gurama Arabia, said that the pilgrims have not been found since Thursday.

He added that members of the medical team had been checking hospitals and mortuaries with a view to locating them or their remains.

He, however, said that for now, it had not been confirmed whether they were among those who died as a result of Thursday’s incident at the stone throwing venue where over 700 pilgrims died.