Israel’s closure of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, following an assassination attempt on Wednesday, is tantamount to a “declaration of war,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday morning.
Abbas’s remarks came after an Arab suspect in the shooting of a prominent right-wing Jewish activist was killed in a gunfight with the police in the mixed Jewish-Arab Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor. Police closed the compound early Thursday out of fear of clashes in the wake of the shooting of Yehudah Glick, who campaigned for Jewish rights on the site, and as Israeli right-wing groups vowed to march on the site.
“This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation,” Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina quoted him as saying.
The director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque called the site’s closure unacceptable.
“It is unacceptable that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is paying a toll for the events in Jerusalem,” he said.
“The mosque is a place for prayer and worship and all Muslims have the right to access it,” the director told the Ma’an news agency.
Israeli authorities turned back right-wing Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who tried to make his way onto the Temple Mount Thursday morning in response to the shooting of Glick, a leader of the Temple Mount Faithful activist group.
Abbas spoke to Israel’s Channel 10 Wednesday evening, as the UN Security Council discussed the escalating violence in Jerusalem, and emphasized that “we don’t want an intifada. We aren’t calling for an intifada.”
“I told people frankly: these are our holy places and we want to protect them in a quiet fashion. Where is the tension in my words? I say we must protect them. You come to me and attack me and I say, stop attacking and nothing will happen. But Netanyahu, all his accusations are null.”
According to Abbas, Israel is responsible for fanning the flames of a third intifada. “Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu forgot during these 50 days [of the summer’s military operation in Gaza] that not a single shot was fired from the West Bank. We don’t want an intifada. The Israeli media and many Israeli leaders are those who are asking [for it] and inciting a third intifada. We aren’t in favor of a third intifada.”
“What’s happening in Jerusalem is very grave. We don’t want matters to develop more than this. I say to the Israeli people: I don’t want advancement in blood, not in Jerusalem nor in other places. I want quiet negotiations,” he added. “What’s happening is incitement by the Israeli government. I went to the Security Council. Where will I go? When [they] attack me, I go to the Security Council.”