Al-Aqsa mosque catches fire as Notre-Dame cathedral in France burns



A fire broke out on the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Monday, just as a huge blaze ripped through the Notre Dame cathedral 2000 miles away in Paris.

France's famous Notre Dame Cathedral was devastated yesterday after a fire engulfed the 850-year-old building, leading to its roof caving in. The Waqf religious organisation which oversees the site said the fire burned a guard's room above what is known as the Marwani prayer room.

Newsweek reports that the director general of the Jerusalem Waqf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs Department, Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, told Jordan's Al-Mamlaka TV that the fire first broke out in the courtyard of the mosque and was successfully contained.

Investigations are now underway to discover what started the fire, which some have said may have been caused by children who were playing in the area.

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The compound as a whole is located in Old City section of East Jerusalem, initially occupied by Jordan during the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict that followed the establishment of Israel, but later seized by Israel during a second war in 1967.

In 2017, United States President Donald Trump formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, calling it "a long overdue step to advance the peace process".

Al-Aqsa means "the farthest" in Arabic; a house of worship was built in the site because of a verse in the Quran describing the prophet Muhammad's "Night Journey", which says he went to the farthest mosque before ascending to heaven atop a flying horse named Buraq ("lightning, in Arabic)". It's unclear which caliph founded the modern structure, but it was nearly certainly built in the late seventh century and steadily expanded ever since.

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