Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday that Israeli “settlers” had no right to “desecrate” the Temple Mount and should be prevented from accessing the site.
“It is our scared place, al-Aqsa [mosque] is ours, this Noble Sanctuary [as Muslims refer to the Temple Mount] is ours. They have no right to go there and desecrate it,” Abbas said, according to Israel Radio.
The Temple Mount houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque– Islam’s third holiest site — and is revered by Jews as the location of the biblical Jewish temples, Judaism’s holiest place.
The PA president called on Palestinians to unite and defend Jerusalem, echoing statements by Hamas officials Ismail Radwan and exiled head of the politburo Khaled Mashaal earlier Friday and Thursday.
Abbas was speaking at a conference in the West Bank town of Ramallah after a spate of clashes this week since a Monday confrontation between Palestinian youths and Israeli police.
He insisted that defending al-Aqsa was tantamount to defending Jerusalem, which the Palestinians are demanding as the capital of their future state.
“Jerusalem is the jewel in the crown and it is the eternal capital of the Palestinian state. Without it, there will not be a state,” he said.
“It is important for the Palestinians to be united in order to protect Jerusalem,” he added.
The Palestinians are set to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council by the end of October demanding the end of Israel’s occupation, a senior official said on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Abbas reportedly rejected a US request to delay the bid.
Since the collapse of US-led peace talks with Israel in April, the Palestinians have been pursuing a new diplomatic path to independence via the United Nations and by joining international organizations.
Abbas’s comments came after the Temple Mount compound was the site of numerous violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police over the past several weeks, as tensions boiled over during the Jewish High Holidays, during which Jewish worshipers flock to Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall below the Temple Mount.
Earlier Friday, Hamas organized a demonstration in Gaza City to call for the defense of the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and the alleged “threats” posed to the site by Israel.
Radwan warned against a “dangerous level of Judaization” of Jerusalem and the mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
“Al-Aqsa is a red line: Israel must be aware that the ongoing raids and attacks on al-Aqsa will cause a volcanic explosion in the area that will reach Israel,” he said, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, adding that Palestinian worshipers in Jerusalem should defend the site.
Radwan also called on Abbas to stop the security coordination with Israel in the West Bank. According to Ma’an, similar protests in the West Bank were suppressed by PA security forces.
On Thursday, Hamas leader in exile Mashaal accused Israel of trying to take over al-Aqsa Mosque.
Mashaal, who lives in the Qatari capital of Doha, said that Israel was trying to take advantage of the crises in Syria and Iraq to assert control over the site.
On Wednesday, three policemen were injured during protests against restrictions on Muslim worship at the mosque. Police used stun grenades as a crowd of about 400 people gathered near the entrance to the mosque, an AFP photographer reported.
On Monday morning, Israel Police forces surrounded the al-Aqsa mosque and entered the plaza atop the Temple Mount after receiving information that Palestinian activists had gathered stones and set barbed wire obstacles in preparation for planned attacks against Jewish visitors to the site.
Upon entering the site, police were met with rocks, firebombs and fireworks, which were hurled at them by the protesters, Israel Radio reported. The rioters were then pushed back into the mosque. Police removed multiple obstacles at the site, including stretches of barbed wire, and it was finally opened to non-Muslim visitors at 7:30 a.m.
The simmering tensions prompted UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon to say he was “deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem,” which “inflame tensions and must stop.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday blamed “Palestinian extremists” for the repeated clashes at the contested site.