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Responsibility for Mosque Fire Laid by Committee on Moslem Religious Authority

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Responsibility for the Aug. 21 El Aksa mosque fire was laid squarely on the Waqf, the Moslem religious authority In East Jerusalem, which was charged with gross negligence in the report of a special investigating committee published today. The committee, headed by Israeli Supreme Court Justice Joel Sussman, included two Arabs — Mayor Mussa Kteili of Nazareth, who is a Christian, and Mohammed Nimr Al Hawari, a district court Judge who is Moslem.

The committee found that the fire was caused by a premeditated act of arson. But it held that the Waqf, which is responsible for the maintenance and security of Moslem Holy Places, failed in its duties on several counts. The committee’s report was presented to the Prime Minister yesterday. It recommended a thorough revision of security procedures in the Temple Mount area where the El Aksa mosque is located.

The committee report did not refer to the suspected arsonist by name since he is awaiting trial. Israeli police arrested an Australian national, Michael Denis William Rohen, within 24 hours after the fire Mr. Rohen, reportedly a member of a fundamentalist Christian sect, confessed to setting the fire. His trial will be public.

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