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Islamic Jihad leader warns of Israeli plans to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque

Aug. 16, 2008 11:06 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2008 11:06 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - In marking the 29th anniversary of the 21 August 1969 burning of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islamic Jihad leader Ibrahim An-Najjar questioned current excavations carried out by Israel beneath the Mughrabi Gate ramp near the Western Wall and the Noble Sanctuary (Haram Al-Sharif) compound.

An Australian Christian extremist hoping to hurry the coming of the messiah was actually responsible for the arson in the mosque in 1969, but widespread fears that Israel would destroy the area after taking over East Jerusalem in 1967 trumped the truth.

Since Israel had razed the Mughrabi Quarter - an 800 year old neighbourhood that stood where the Western Wall compound now is - when they took control over the area in 1967, Palestinians had ample grounds for mistrust as to how the holy area would be treated. When the mosque was burned two years later, popular imagination held Israel responsible for the attack.

In his statement to Ma'an on Saturday morning, An-Nijjar said that current excavations near the Western Wall and beneath the Noble Sanctuary compound risk damaging the area and cracking the walls that hold up the holy Muslim sites.

An-Najjar told Ma'an that Arab and Islamic crowds must rise to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the place from which Prophet Muhammad started his journey to the heavens [It says in the Qur'an that the Prophet Muhammad traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem overnight on a magic horse Al-Barack, from where he was taken to heaven before coming back to earth]. "Thousands of Palestinian and Arab people," continued An-Najjar, "are ready to sacrifice their lives to rescue the holy mosque."

An-Najjar also called on Palestinian resistance factions to make every possible effort to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque, since Israel is taking advantage of factional disagreements to continue their excavations under the area without interventions.

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