World Bulletin/News Desk
Despite calls by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ministers and Knesset members to work on calming tensions at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the situation on the ground remains charged, with Palestinian officials decrying Israeli "escalations" at the holy site.
"The Palestinian people will stand against any Israeli attempt to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound between Muslims and Jews," Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, a Muslim preacher at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and former mufti for the Palestinian territories, told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
Palestinian officials have repeatedly accused Israel of seeking to divide the holy site between Muslims and Jews, although Netanyahu has said there were no plans to change the status quo at the mosque compound.
"Israel's plan to divide and Judaize the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex has been in the making for years, but resistance on the part of the [Palestinian] people of Jerusalem has prevented its implementation," he added.
Tension has run high in occupied East Jerusalem since last week, when Israeli authorities sealed access to the mosque complex after the shooting of an extremist Jewish rabbi in the city before reopening it hours later.
The unrest mounted further after Israeli forces killed a young Palestinian man suspected of shooting the rabbi in a raid last week on his East Jerusalem home.
Several Israeli parliamentarians have also entered the mosque complex in recent days, drawing the ire of Muslim worshippers and official condemnation from Arab and Muslim countries.
Groups of Jewish settlers, too, have forced their way into the site, prompting clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli forces.
On Wednesday, as many as 60 Israeli troops stormed the compound through the Al-Magharbeh and Al-Silsila gates and began shooting haphazardly in the direction of Muslim worshipers, eyewitnesses said.
During the settlers' intrusion, Palestinian officials said, Israeli troops had fired stun grenades inside the compound's Al-Qibali Mosque, even entering the house of worship with their shoes until they reached Saladin's Minbar (Pulpit) for the first time since 1967.
Yet, to the surprise of the Palestinian officials, the developments were received by perceived indifference in the Arab and Islamic worlds.
"Sadly, what happened yesterday [at the mosque compound] did not shake the Arab and Islamic countries," Sabri said.
"Israeli soldiers fired directly towards the main power socket inside the Al-Qibali Mosque – God saved the Al-Aqsa complex from a second fire," he added, referring to a 1969 fire started by Jewish extremist Denis Michael Rohan that gutted the southern wing of the mosque, including Saladin's Minbar.
Sabri went on to say that repeated condemnations by Arab and Muslim countries of the Israeli escalations in Jerusalem were not enough.
"They have to support the Palestinians on the ground to strengthen their steadfastness and to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque," he said.
During the past week alone, 120 Israeli soldiers and 370 settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa complex.
Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib, deputy head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, agreed.
He said that Arabic and Islamic states only took minimal steps to protect the holy site, despite the increased danger posed by Israeli measures in recent years.
"The Israel violations against the Al-Aqsa complex by facilitating the settlers' intrusions, attacking female worshipers and preventing Muslims from praying were expected to generate a Palestinian reaction – and this is what is happening now," he said.
"We are honored to protect the Al-Aqsa complex with marches coming from every place in the Palestinian territories to defy the Israeli measures," he added.
Yet, he asserted that Israel "must be punished for its crimes against Jerusalem."
Al-Khatib claimed that the Islamic Movement's efforts to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex from settlers' intrusions had brought the group under fire from Netanyhau.
Earlier this year, Netanyahu asked the concerned Israeli authorities to consider the possibility of outlawing the Islamic Movement for allegedly inciting against Israel.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the "Second Intifada," a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
Last Mod: 06 Kasım 2014, 16:55