Israelis Nix Controversial Bethlehem Mosque

The Israeli government on March 3 decided to ban construction of a mosque near the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, according to a UPI story and the Washington Times. In so doing, it yielded to requests by President Bush, Christian churches and the Vatican, but "encountered the wrath of the local Islamic Movement."

Muslims had already started construction of the mosque that would be named after Shahab e-Dinh, a relative of Saladin who defeated the Crusaders in 1187, and who is buried there.

The government said the Muslims could build a mosque some 250 to 400 meters away from the site, and it also offered help to upgrade the grave. Some Palestinian authority officials have criticized the insistence of the Islamic Movement, and Sharansky remarked that some Muslim clergymen "discreetly" said they also oppose the construction. But the head of the Islamic Movement said, "At the right time, we shall resume construction."