(photo credit: REUTERS)
A senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was forced to flee the Temple Mount on Friday after dozens of Palestinian protesters assaulted him.
Mahmoud al-Habbash, who until recently served as religious affairs minister, is considered one of Abbas’s most trusted advisors.
Following the formation of the Hamas-Fatah government on June 2, Abbas appointed Habbash as chief justice of Islamic courts.
Friday’s incident began when Palestinians discovered that Habbash had arrived at the Temple Mount for meetings with the mufti of Jerusalem and other senior Islamic figures.
The protesters surrounded the office of the mufti and demanded that Habbash leave immediately.
They accused him of coming to Jerusalem with an Israeli permit.
They chanted slogans denouncing Habbash and Abbas as traitors.
Palestinians later posted videos on social media websites documenting the incident.
When the adviser and his bodyguards walked out of the office, they were pelted with stones, eggs and shoes, witnesses said.
The protesters also used pepper gas to attack Habbash, who managed to flee the Old City of Jerusalem unharmed.
He is a former Hamas official from the Gaza Strip who defected and joined the PA leadership in the West Bank several years ago.
Abbas’s office accused supporters of Hamas and Hizb ut-Tahrir (“The Party of Liberation”) of being behind the “premeditated and despicable” attack on Habbash.
A statement released by Abbas’s office claimed that “Israeli occupation provided the assailants with a cover.”
It said that at least 15 Palestinians were wounded when they tried to prevent the assault on the adviser.
A senior PA security official in Ramallah blamed “drug-dealers and mercenaries” for the assault. He said that the PA has launched an investigation into the incident and that those responsible would be severely punished.