By Ma’an News Agency – 28 Sept 2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority joined a chorus of institutions and leaders condemning what officials termed a provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem on Sunday.
The PA’s Information Ministry released a statement that slammed the actions of “Israeli occupation police and extremist settlers” wanting to “implement a new series of organized state terror” in Palestinian East Jerusalem.
At least 40 people were injured and five arrested as fierce clashes broke out near the Old City-area mosque on Sunday after a group of right-wing Israelis reportedly entered the compound under police watch.
The PA called on world media to expose “the ugly face of the Israeli occupation that does not hold any value to the sanctities of Islam and Christianity [or] freedom of worship.”
Palestinians were hurt by police batons and high-velocity tear-gas canisters, including several who sustained serious eye and head injuries. Some 17 police were also wounded during the clashes, mostly from rocks.
The PA said “countries of the world, the Security Council, international human rights bodies, the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Islamic Conference organization [should] play its role in providing protection to the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” and called “upon the masses of Arab and Islamic nations and lovers of justice in the world to protest the crime and to refuse it by all legitimate means.”
Meanwhile, Muslim and Christian religious figured reacted with horror to the day’s violence.
Mahmoud Al-Habbas, the PA’s minister of waqf, denounced what he termed an invasion. “The Palestinian Authority and government view this crime as dangerous and with anger,” since it comes “within a series of ongoing Israeli violations carried out against Palestinians.”
He said the perpetrators of the incident should be brought to justice internationally.
Archbishop Atallah Hanna, one of the highest-ranking Christian clergymen in Jerusalem, declared Sunday’s violence a premonition of Israel’s plans for the city, reaffirming “the solidarity of Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem and all of the Holy Land with their comrades, the Muslims.”
“We, as Christian Palestinians and Jerusalemites, cannot keep watching with our hands folded in the face of what happened today,” Hanna said. “Today it is Al-Aqsa; tomorrow it will be the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.” “The [Israeli] occupation and its racism does not exclude anyone.”
Palestinian political leaders and factions were equally incensed.
Hamas urged the PA to immediately stop negotiations with Israel in protest of the violence, while movement leader Mushir Al-Masri told a demonstration in Gaza City that the clashes were “the fruit of the three-way meeting that was held in Washington.”
In Khan Younis, Hamas leader Saleh Ar-Raqab urged Arab states to cut economic and political ties with Israel, demanding solidarity with Palestinians. He also called on the PA to halt talks and coordination with Israel.
The top Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator, Dr Saeb Erakat, condemned what he termed Israeli violence against worshippers. “This attack on ordinary civilians and worshippers at Al-Aqsa is unacceptable.”
He said Israeli settlers were “determined to destroy Jerusalem as it once was, an open and multicultural city, and home to the world’s three great monotheistic faiths… Israel’s actions are both illegal and are designed to make Jerusalem a ‘united city’ for Israeli settlers only, while Israel continues to target the city’s Christian and Muslim population.”
“Providing a police escort for settlers who are against peace at all costs, and whose presence is deliberately designed to provoke a reaction, are not the actions of someone who is committed to peace, but of someone who will go to extraordinary lengths to scuttle all hopes of peace,” he said. “Israel must cease all actions that will only inflame the situation.”
Believed by Muslims to be the location where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven during his Night Journey, Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam. The compound, with the golden Dome of the Rock, is also a focal point of Palestinian national pride.
It also sits atop what Israelis refer to as the Temple Mount, where the Jewish First and Second Temples were thought to have stood. The location is especially sensitive because some religious extremists seek the mosque’s demolition in order to construct a “Third Temple.”