Israel’s closure of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Jews and Christians 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. Only one day before, Abbas said he did not want another intifada.
Abbas’s remarks, reported by AFP, came after the 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. The suspect, Moataz Hejazi, was a convicted terrorist who served 11 years in Israeli prisons, and an Islamic Jihad member.
Police closed the al-Aqsa/Temple Mount compound early Thursday out of fear of clashes in the wake of the attempted assassination of Yehudah Glick, who campaigned for Jewish rights on the site holy to both Jews and Muslims.
“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 Abbas 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 added.
Abbas struck a much milder tone only hours before, speaking to Israel’s Channel 10 and emphasizing that “we don’t want an intifada. We aren’t calling for an intifada.”
According to Abbas, Israel is responsible for fanning the flames of a third intifada. “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.”
But Abbas’s Fatah organization also denounced the Israeli move as a “declaration of a religious war” on the Palestinians and all Arabs and Muslims. A Fatah leaflet urged Palestinians to defend the Aksa Mosque “regardless of the sacrifices and to prevent the occupation forces from carrying out their plans to Judaize Jerusalem and our holy symbols.”
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu called out the international community for not condemning the “wave of incitement by radical Islamists and also by Abbas,” who said Jews must be prevented through all ways possible from going up to the Temple Mount.