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Israeli contractors sign 'confidentiality clause' in tender to build new al-Aqsa bridge

The current, ramshackle wooden bridge of the Moroccan Gate is used by Israeli forces and settlers to storm the mosque's courtyard
Jewish worshippers take part in a priestly blessing during Passover at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City (Reuters)

Israel has reportedly requested contractors who are participating in a tender for the construction of the Moroccan Gate Bridge to sign "a confidentiality clause" regarding the controversial project.

A wooden ramp, built in 2007, at present connects the Western Wall plaza to al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. It is used by Israeli security forces and settlers to storm al-Aqsa Mosque as well as by tourists visiting the site.

The Moroccan Gate is the only gate to the mosque that the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, which manages and administers Islam's third-holiest mosque, allows non-Muslims to use when visiting the compound. The bridge is the only way to reach the gate. The current tender is to replace the ramp's temporary wooden columns. 

According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the confidentiality clause states: "I hereby pledge to maintain complete and absolute confidentiality of classified information and everything related to or stemming from them, and not to publish nor disclose them in any way whatsoever before any person or entity, and all of that is for an unlimited period."

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The tender was issued by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the authority at the Israeli prime minister's office responsible for the site.

Annex H in the tender stipulates the obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the entire tender.

Last month, it was revealed that the existing bridge is unstable and at risk of collapse. Subsequently, thousands of settlers stormed the courtyards of al-Aqsa Mosque via the bridge. 

The bridge is located over a site in the Western Wall courtyard dedicated to the prayer of Jewish women. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, one million people are expected to visit the Western Wall during the Jewish month of Elul, which began on 9 August and leads up to the Jewish new year holidays. 

The architect at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation decided in May that the ramshackle wooden bridge of the Moroccan Gate could be used for another four months.

Jewish women praying in the courtyard submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court requesting the issue of a precautionary order preventing the continued use of the wooden bridge, and preventing work from being carried out on it until the court resolved a previous petition submitted by the same group of women in June. The court rejected the request to issue the order.

The Jerusalem Municipal Comptroller said in a report published in 2007 that the permit to build the bridge was issued illegally and amid suspected fraud. Last month, a tour of the site was organised for contractors. The tender stated that the new work should be completed two months after it starts.

"We are working under the directives of the Prime Minister's Office," the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said.  

Yedioth Ahronoth quoted an official involved in the case as saying that "the solution for building a safe and legal bridge is in the hands of the prime minister, and he must decide whether he works for the King of Jordan [who has ultimate authority over the Jerusalem Waqf] or for the public at the Western Wall".

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