Arab League chief: Dig near Mount altering J'lem features

Arab League urges int'l community to intercede to stop work near Al Aqsa.

Temple mount work 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Temple mount work 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Arab League chief on Saturday accused Israel of attempting to alter the features of Jerusalem with its ongoing excavation near the Temple Mount and urged the international community to intercede to stop the work. "There are plans to change the features of the city," Amr Moussa said in a statement distributed to the Arab representatives at an emergency League meeting in Cairo. Moussa said, without elaborating, that the dig reflects "Israeli attempts" to tighten control over Jerusalem. But the work at Jerusalem's Old City compound that is home to the golden-capped Dome of the Rock shrine and Al Aqsa mosque - sacred for Muslims, who believe the place is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven - has angered many throughout the Muslim world. Protests against the construction have spread, with demonstrators accusing Israel of plotting to harm Islamic shrines. Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, said he also sent letters to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UNESCO, warning of repercussions the Israeli work could have on peace in the region. "The Israeli violations are provoking anger and condemnation in Palestine, Arab and Islamic world, which is threatening the security and stability in the region," Moussa's statement read. Israeli authorities have promised the dig to replace a centuries-old ramp damaged in a 2004 snowstorm would not damage the compound, about 60 meters (yards) away. But as work started this week, it drew fierce protests and accusations that Israel was plotting to harm Muslim holy sites. The Arab League meeting was also attended by Palestinian presidential aid, Nabil Shaath, who openly accused Israel of threatening to destroy Islam's third-holiest shine, the Al Aqsa. Egyptian foreign ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador in Cairo Shalom Cohen on Thursday, to inform him of Egypt's denunciation of the Israel work. In Jordan, Islamists called for holy war, or jihad, to save the Al Aqsa mosque and vowed revolt against their Arab rulers if they do not protect the Jerusalem flashpoint site from Israeli actions. The committee of Muslim scholars in Jordan's largest political opposition group, the Islamic Action Front, or IAF, said in a statement that they "urge ... proclaiming jihad to liberate Al Aqsa and save it from destruction and sabotage from Jewish usurpers." The IAF called for "recruitment" of Arabs for "the struggle and liberation" of the Al Aqsa, saying it was "necessary for every person to fight the enemy of Islam who is destroying" the shrine of Prophet Muhammad. Jordan and Egypt - Israel's sole Arab peace partners and key US allies in the region - have demanded Israel stop the construction work. IAF, which has 17 seats in Jordan's 110-member Parliament, opposes the country's peace treaty with Israel and regards Washington's Mideast policy as biased in favor of Israel. The group also urged countries in the Arab world with Israeli embassies to shut them down and cut all economic and cultural ties with Israel.