The 14.4 hectare (35 -acre) Haram Ash-Sharif or "Noble Sancturary", the third holiest site in Islam, encloses nearly one-sixth of the Old City of Jerusalem with foutains, gardens, mosques, buildings and other structures.
Moslems connect the "furthest mosque" of the Quran's Sura 17:1 with Jerusalem. The Masjid Al-Aqsa (or farthest Mosque) is the site where, it is said, Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, and for the first 16 months of Islam was the Qibleh (the director Moslems face during prayers) until God commanded that Mecca be the Qibleh. Jerusalem is not the third of the three holy cities but, according to the Qur'an, it is the only holy city (see verse 5:21). Allah or His Messenger never called "holy" either Makkah or Madinah. Muslims make their case weaker by saying that they have three holy places, which is false (see "Who and What is Holy?"). "Holy" is the translation of the Arabic words derived from the root qaaf daal seen represented by the English letters "QDS". Derived words from the root QDS may be Quds, Al-Quddus, Muqaddas and Muqaddasah.
The Al Aqsa Haram Sharif is one of three most Holy Mosques in Islam and whose virtues and status is stated in the Holy Qur'an and Ahadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). In 1969 damage due to arson attack by a Zionist zealot took twenty years to repair. Zionist organisations, seventeen in all, including 'The Temple Mount Fund' 'The Temple Institute' and 'The Research Institute for the Temple' have openly declared to demolish the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock and replace it with a Jewish Temple. In January 1983 the Temple Mount Foundation [Fund] was established in Israel, Europe and America to raise funds for rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the site of Masjid al Aqsa.
Palestinians who live in the part of Jerusalem that was occupied during the 1967 War generally do not accept Israeli citizenship. They are, therefore, issued a residence permit or Jerusalem identification card by the Israeli Government. Israel applies the 1952 Law of Permanent Residency and its 1974 amendments to Jerusalem identification card holders. This law stipulates that a Jerusalem resident loses the right of residence if the resident leaves Israeli territory for more than 7 years, acquires the nationality of another country, or acquires permanent residence in another country. Such persons are permitted to return only as tourists and sometimes are denied entry. The Israeli Government does not apply these same restrictions to Israeli citizens. Israeli government officials deny that more stringent enforcement of the Jerusalem residency requirements reflects a concerted policy to decrease the Palestinian population in the city.
In a special election on February 6, 2001, after a campaign stressing security and maintaining Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, Likud leader Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud Barak by over 20 percentage points. As he had promised in his campaign, Sharon formed a broad unity government that includes the Labor and Likud parties, the far-right parties, some smaller secular parties, and several religious parties.
American citizens are warned to limit travel to the Old City of Jerusalem to daylight hours, Saturday through Thursday. US Government personnel in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are under tight security controls, including prohibition of travel to the West Bank and Gaza. Occasionally, US Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to sections of Jerusalem, including areas in both West and East Jerusalem, depending on current security conditions. Roads designed for Israeli settlers including in East Jerusalem have been the site of frequent shooting attacks and roadside explosives, sometimes resulting in death or injury.
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