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Israel and Iran Close Pilgrimage Sites Due to Coronavirus Pandemic - Reports

Sputnik News

16:03 GMT 15.03.2020(updated 16:10 GMT 15.03.2020)

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Earlier this month, in an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia was forced to halt the umrah - the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca - due to coronavirus concerns.

Prayer halls of the Al Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem have been closed due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), media reported on Sunday.

According to the Palestinian Ma'an news agency, citing the director of the Al Aqsa mosque, Ahmed Omar Kiswani, the Waqf, the Islamic body that manages the Temple Mount compound, decided to shut down the halls amid the pandemic and hold all prayers in the courtyard of the Al Aqsa mosque.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, built on ruins of Jewish temples on the Temple Mount, are considered to be Islam's third holiest sites.

So far, Israel has confirmed over 190 disease cases of the disease, while 38 people in Palestine tested positive for COVID-19.

The closure of the holy sites comes as Iran banned pilgrimages to the tomb of Imam Reza in the country's Shiite holy city of Mashhad, just days before the Persian New Year holiday of Nowrouz, in accordance with measures against the coronavirus spread.

More than 100 people have died from the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in Iran in the course of the past 24 hours, while the total number of those infected in the country has reached 13,938 people, according to the country's health ministry.


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