A small fire broke out at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem late Monday, but firefighters quickly extinguished it, a Waqf official said Tuesday.
Bassem Abu Labda did not say foul play was suspected in the blaze, which was overshadowed by a massive fire that gutted France’s Notre Dame Cathedral at around the same time Monday.
He blamed children playing around for setting the fire, which damaged a mobile wooden guard booth on the rooftop of a prayer room in the southeastern part of the compound.
Waqf firefighters completely put it out within seven minutes, he said.
The fire did not cause any damage to permanent structures in the Al-Aqsa, Abu Labda said.
“We only lost a mobile guard booth that guards would sit in when it rains,” he said. “We did not lose anything important.”
Pictures posted on Twitter showed what appeared to be the guard booth on fire.
Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed firefighters quickly put the flames out and said the police was investigating what caused them.
He said he was not certain whether Israeli or Waqf firefighters extinguished the fire.
The Al-Aqsa, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is Islam’s third holiest site. It is Judaism’s holiest site. The powder keg site is governed by a fragile status quo between Israel and Palestinian and Jordanian authorities.
In 1969, a fire set by an Australian Christian tourist found to be insane caused damage to a pulpit in the mosque and set off widespread riots.
The Waqf is a Jordanian government-run organization that administers the Al-Aqsa.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the fire at Al-Aqsa, which he said represents “great religious and humanitarian value to us,” according to the official PA news site Wafa.