RAMALLAH – The Palestinian president has accused Israel of igniting a â€œreligious warâ€ by allowing Jewish worshippers to visit a contested holy site in Jerusalem.
Mahmoud Abbas says the visits are provocative, and that Palestinian worshippers will defend the site, revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and Temple Mount by Jews.
Jews are allowed to visit, but they are not supposed to pray there. An increase in the number of visits has sparked clashes and raised Muslim fears that Israel is plotting to take over the site and sparked clashes.
Abbasâ€™ remarks â€” at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat â€” came as Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian demonstrator in clashes in the West Bank on Tuesday.
Abbas, meanwhile, accused Hamas of trying â€œto destroyâ€ efforts to broker national unity through a series of bomb blasts in Gaza last week.
Hamas quickly hit back, describing the allegations as â€œlies.â€
Abbas said Hamas was behind the Gaza explosions which targeted leaders of his Fatah movement.
The blasts prompted the cancellation of a rare memorial service in Gaza for Arafat.
â€œThose who caused the explosions in Gaza are the leaders of Hamas â€” they are responsible,â€ Abbas said in the West Bank city of Ramallah, accusing the rival faction of trying â€œto sabotage and destroy the Palestinian national project.â€
Following his speech, Hamas denounced Abbas as â€œsectarian and partisan.â€
â€œAbbasâ€™s speech is web of lies, insults and disinformation,â€ said Mushir Al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza.
â€œWhat the Palestinian people need is a courageous president.â€
Abbas also addressed the clashes which have gripped annexed east Jerusalem for the past four months and spoke about unrest at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound triggered by the demands of far-right Jewish fringe groups for the right to pray there.
The Palestinians â€œwill defend Al-Aqsa and the churches against the settlers and extremists,â€ he pledged.
Abbas also reaffirmed his plans to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council later this month calling for an end to Israelâ€™s occupation of the Palestinian territories by November 2016.
He promised that the Palestinians, who won the UN rank of observer state in 2012, would apply to join a host of international organizations if the resolution was blocked by a US veto.
â€œWe will not tolerate any pressure,â€ he said, referring to US efforts to dissuade the Palestinians from approaching the Security Council. – ArabNews