Palestinians warn of religious war if Jews ‘storm’ Temple Mount

Mahmoud al-Habbash, the PA’s top Islamic judge and presidential adviser on religious affairs, accused Israel of seeking to ignite a religious war “that would burn the whole world.”

 SECURITY FORCES stand guard as religious Jews visit the Temple Mount. (photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)
SECURITY FORCES stand guard as religious Jews visit the Temple Mount.
(photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

Palestinian Authority officials on Sunday warned against attempts by Jews to “storm” the Aqsa Mosque compound during Jewish holidays, saying that would trigger a “religious war.”

They called on Palestinians to converge on the site in the coming days to foil the alleged attempts.

Palestinians regularly condemn tours by Jews of the Temple Mount compound as “incursions,” although the visitors do not enter the mosque itself.

The warning came less than a month before the start of Ramadan, during which hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers attend prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem.

During Ramadan last year, clashes erupted between Palestinians and the Israeli police at the compound and in other parts of the Old City.

 A snowy view of the Temple Mount.  (credit: ARIK BENDER/MAARIV) A snowy view of the Temple Mount. (credit: ARIK BENDER/MAARIV)

Mahmoud al-Habbash, the PA’s top Islamic judge and presidential adviser on religious affairs, accused Israel of seeking to ignite a religious war “that would burn the whole world.”

“Settler gangs exploit Jewish holidays to storm the blessed Aqsa Mosque to impose a fait accompli there as part of the Judaization schemes targeting Jerusalem and the Islamic holy sites,” he said.

Habbash urged Palestinians who are able to reach al-Aqsa Mosque “to intensify their presence there in the coming days to thwart the plans of the settler terrorist groups and defend the mosque.”

The Palestinian leadership is closely following the events at the Mosque compound “and the attempts of the occupying state to increase tension in Jerusalem,” he said.

Habbash said the “incursions” are part of an Israeli scheme to divide the Temple Mount in time and space between Muslims and Jews. The Palestinians are determined to thwart the purported “incursions,” he added.

Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to Muslims alone,” he said. “Non-Muslims have no right to it, as stated in the Koran and confirmed by international laws and UNESCO resolutions.”

Habbash called on all Muslims to emphasize the Islamic identity of the mosque “and send a clear message to the world that harming Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque would be regarded as an assault on the faith of more than one and a half billion Muslims.”

Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Mohammed Hussein called on Palestinians to arrive at the mosque “to confront the calls launched by extremist settler groups to storm it during the Jewish holiday of Purim” later this week.

Settlers will try to bring whistles and costumes into the mosque during the holiday, “in addition to singing, dancing and celebrating at its gates,” he said.

“Harming the sanctity of al-Aqsa Mosque is a heinous crime, which is  part of efforts to impose a new fait accompli there,” he added.

Hussein appealed to regional and international bodies and organizations “to intervene to stop these violations against the mosque” and warned that Israel was “pushing the region toward a religious war.”

PA Minister of Religious Affairs Hatem al-Bakri issued a similar warning.

“The escalating and dangerous Israeli plans against Jerusalem, represented by ongoing attempts to interfere in the affairs of the Haram al-Sharif [Noble Sanctuary], intensive excavations under al-Aqsa Mosque, settlement projects and the daily incursions, are nothing but an attempt to change the status quo,” he said.

“The continuation of these crimes and provocative calls [by Jews to visit the Temple Mount] obliges the world to stand up to its responsibilities and to seriously intervene to put an end to these violations,” Bakri said.