This morning, Israel announced that it would demolish the Maghrib Gate bridge due to safety concerns and in spite of the Waqf’s objections.

The Maghrib gate, also known as the Rambam gate, is the only gate non-Muslims use to access the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism. The bridge collapsed in 2004 and since then, the city has been planning a permanent bridge which would replace the temporary wooden replacement that has been used for the last eight year. The gate was originally little more than a sand bank prior to the initial collapse.

City Engineer Shlomo Eshkol announced this morning that the Mughrabi bridge is unsafe in its current state and will be demolished within the next 30 days. The reasons cited were the minor earthquake earlier this year, snowfall and natural erosion that has made the wooden structure unstable as well as being flammable. Eshkol stated that the new bridge would be made of non-combustible materials.

The planned new bridge will be wider and longer and will be able to accompany any equipment needed by the police to quell the Friday rioting and stone-throwing that sometimes occur following prayer services.  Much effort was invested into planning the bridge so that it does not interfere with archaeological work as well as not raise the ire of Muslims.

Since the announcement this morning, the Waqf Authority that represents the Muslim interests on the Temple Mount has objected to the bridge, claiming that they have the sole authority to decide whether a new bridge can be built and that the new bridge is an “attempt to Judaize the Temple Mount”. In addition Hamas, leaders and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the announcement, using similar language to the Waqf’s announcement.

UNESCO officials are expected to weigh in on the issue since the Temple Mount is considered to be a World Heritage Site, but they have not commented on the bridge at this time. In the past, the organization has been sharply critical of Israel, even when Israel is considerate towards Arab interests and does not destroy artifacts found during construction in the Old City.