Sheikh Sabri said that "such an Israeli violation was conducted under cover of excavation works, which jeopardize Al-Aqsa Mosque."
He called on the Islamic world to halt the construction of the synagogue because "Al-Aqsa Mosque is not only for the Palestinian people but also for all the Muslims worldwide." "The Israeli authorities have been exploiting the big gates of the western side of al-Aqsa since 1996 through conducting a series of excavation works which ended with clandestinely erecting a synagogue," Sheikh Sabri explained.
He noted that "constructing such a synagogue proves that the Israelis did not find any sign for the Temple, that is why they made up some rooms to vaguely narrate their religious history." Reports say the synagogue is located in the western side underneath the Moroccans' Gate. It consists of five rooms.
Salah called the excavations a "black stain" on Israel and accused the government of plotting to destroy the mosques to build a new Jewish temple. "You are inviting an uprising against you just to stop your attack on the mosque," he said.
Israel has conducted archaeological digs near the compound since it captured the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War. The digs infuriate the Palestinians and the Islamic Trust that oversees the mosque complex.
The competing claims to the site have often acted as a catalyst for Israeli-Palestinian fighting. In September, Israelis unveiled a tourist centre at the underground site near the compound that they said detailed the Jewish connection to the site.
Sabri called the archaeological project an "aggression" that threatened the mosque compound and demanded an immediate end to the digs. "These violations and aggression lead to tension in the region," he said on Tuesday.
In 1996, Palestinians rioted after Israel opened an archaeological tunnel alongside the compound. Eighty people were killed in the violence. In September 2000, then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the mosque compound. The next day, violence erupted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, evolving into a nearly five-year Palestinian uprising that killed more than 3500 people on the Palestinian side and more than 1000 people on the Israeli side.
Sabri and other local Muslim leaders also accused Israel of opening a synagogue in the newly opened site, which they considered a challenge to their own claims to the compound.
No new synanogue
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall, said there was no new synagogue at the site and the digs did not go into the compound. Israel has repeatedly denied any plans to damage the mosques and has stopped several attempts by Jewish extremists to destroy the shrines. "The third temple will not be built by people. As we know in the Jewish faith it will be built by God," Rabinovitch said.