The heads of Palestinian militant factions in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday slammed Israel over measures taken in the wake of a deadly terror attack at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount holy site saying that its “aggression” on the compound’s Al-Aqsa mosque would be “the spark that ignites the entire region.”
Tensions have mounted as Israel installed metal detectors outside the Temple Mount’s nine gates over the weekend, after two police officers were fatally shot at the site revered by both Jews and Muslims.
Palestinian worshipers have protested the new devices, which they say infringe upon the fragile status-quo governing Muslim and Jewish prayer at the incendiary site.
A statement delivered during a joint press conference held by the heads of Palestinian militant groups in the Strip said that “we will not allow the cowardly occupation to take control of Al-Aqsa.”
“The occupation must know that violations against Al-Aqsa will cost the occupation more than it can afford. We are continuing preparing for the battle to liberate and cleanse Al-Aqsa mosque,” they said.
“Aggression on Al-Aqsa mosque will be the spark that ignites the entire region. We will have the upper hand and the stronger say if the occupation continues with its plans at Al-Aqsa mosque,” they added.
Meanwhile, the ruling Fatah party in the West Bank has called for mass civil disobedience later in the week in response to the measures.
Israel’s relatively unusual decision to lock down the compound in the immediate aftermath of the attack, and its subsequent introduction of more stringent security measures at the site, sparked outrage among Palestinians who suggested that Israel might use the attack to justify changing the status-quo at the site which allows Muslim prayer there but forbids Jewish prayer and religious rituals.
Policemen hurled stun grenades at protesters who had gathered at the Old City’s Lion Gate on Monday evening. One of the wounded was Palestinian leader Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who was reportedly shot in the head by a rubber bullet and taken to al-Makassed Hospital in east Jerusalem.
The hilltop compound, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.
The site has become the site of violent clashes in the past. Palestinians believe that Israel intends to change the status-quo at the site while many Israelis voice frustration over what they see as restrictions on Jewish prayer at the complex.