Abbas warns Israel against ‘religious war’
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned against places of worship becoming points of conflict, as tensions remain high over right-wing Jewish demands to be able to pray inside Jerusalem’s holiest compound.
Speaking in Ramallah on Friday, Abbas warned Israel of turning the current political conflict into a religious one.
“This is a crucial time, there’s terrorism, religious conflict and violence. It is us who pay the price, the blood of our children,” said Abbas.
“I am warning against turning a political conflict into a religious one. Let’s talk about politics not religion.”
His comments came as Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank, amid growing fears that Israel wants to change the status quo at Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif by allowing Jewish prayer there.
At least five Palestinian protesters were wounded when security forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets in the Abu Isneeneh neighbourhood of south Hebron.
Clashes also took place in Ramallah, Qalandiya, Kadom, Ofer, Jalazone, Silwad, AlRam and Nabi Salehat.
Sources say that at least 10 people were wounded by either live or rubber-coated steel bullets, while tens of Palestinians suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation.
Meanwhile at the Mount of Olives adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City, two Israeli settlers were attacked on Friday, one stabbed in the back and another other hit by an iron rod, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said.
Both were taken to hospital with their injuries not considered to be life threatening.
Meanwhile, Israeli police continued to allow young Muslim worshippers to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque on Friday, having previously limited male entry to those under 60.
Israel eased restrictions at the site last week after US Secretary of State John Kerry announced agreement on steps to reduce tensions after talks in neighbouring Jordan, which has custodial rights at the compound.
Muslims officials said about 45,000 people attended Friday prayers at the mosque, with no serious incidents reported.
The religious site, which is holy to Jews as well as Muslims, has been the focus of months of unrest in East Jerusalem, that has spread to the occupied West Bank and Arab communities across Israel, and raising the prospect of a new Palestinian uprising.
Earlier on Friday, Israel arrested four Palestinians suspected of planning to kill right-wing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman with an anti-tank rocket while he drove to his Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, Israeli officials said.
A statement by Israel’s domestic intelligence service Shin Bet identified three of the detainees as Hamas members.
Citing their confessions under interrogation, it said they had hoped killing Lieberman “would relay a message to the State of Israel that would bring about an end to the Gaza war”.
“We have no information about this issue. However, we stress that leaders of the Occupation [Israel] who are responsible for the killing of children and women and for defiling the sacred sites are legitimate targets for the resistance,” Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said.
Tension has been high across the Palestinian territories after three Israeli teenage settlers went missing in June, and were later found dead, in what Israel says was an abduction and killing by Hamas fighters, followed by an apparent revenge attack on a young Palestinian male several weeks later.
Those events helped precipitate Israel’s 50-day-long offensive against Gaza that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly women, children and the elderly.