South Africans protest in solidarity with Al-Aqsa


Thousands of people marched Wednesday in Cape Town to condemn Israel's recent restrictions on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which is sacred to Muslims and represents the Islamic world's third-holiest site after the cities of Mecca and Medina.

Waving Palestinian flags, and carrying placards reading "Hands off Al-Aqsa mosque," protesters demanded the South African government close the Israeli embassy.

Protest organizer Yoonus Allie told Anadolu Agency by telephone that between 5,000 and 8,000 people had joined the protest. Strong chants of "Free - Free Palestine" could be heard in the background during the telephone conversation.

"We as South Africans know the pain of oppression and even on short notice thousands managed to turn up for this protest," he said.

Allie said the protest organized by the Al-Quds Foundation and the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) would continue until Friday.

Nelson Mandela's grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela told eNCA television during the protest: "We would like to say enough is enough. We are calling on our government to cut ties with Israel."

He said South Africa benefited from international solidarity during its struggle against apartheid and now stood in solidarity with Palestine in its struggle for freedom.

Mandla, an MP for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and a traditional Leader, called on his government not to issue visas to an Israeli parliamentary delegation planning to visit South Africa this month.

Israeli authorities closed down the Al-Aqsa compound and canceled weekly Friday prayers for the first time in nearly five decades, following a deadly shootout on July 14.

The mosque was later reopened after Israel installed metal detectors and cameras at its gates.

Worshippers protested the measures, but Israel refused to remove the detectors, claiming the security measures were similar to procedures taken at other holy sites around the world.

Following international pressure, Israel's security cabinet decided to remove the metal detectors but said a new surveillance system using "smart checks" based on advanced technology would be put in place.

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