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Abbas pushes international community to intervene over Al-Aqsa crisis

July 20, 2017 3:34 P.M. (Updated: July 21, 2017 12:36 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has contacted a number of foreign states and international bodies urging them to intervene to defuse the tense situation following increased Israeli security measures in occupied East Jerusalem in the wake of a deadly attack, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Thursday.

Three Palestinian citizens of Israel were shot dead while carrying out a shooting attack in East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday, in which two Israeli border police officers -- also Palestinian citizens of Israel -- were killed.

In the wake of the attack, Israeli forces shut down the Al-Aqsa compound for two days -- marking the first time Al-Aqsa was closed to Palestinians since 2014 and the first time in 50 years that the mosque was closed during Friday prayers -- only to reopen it after having installed security cameras, metal detectors, and turnstiles at the entrances of the compound.

Palestinians have seen the measures as the latest example of Israeli authorities using Israeli-Palestinian violence and tensions as a means of furthering control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and normalizing heightened measures by Israeli forces targeting Palestinians.

Even Israel's intelligence service, the Shin Bet, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) have expressed reservations to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the use of metal detectors, arguing that the anger sparked by the measures might outweigh the security benefits of keeping them, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.

Abbas, who cut a diplomatic visit to China short over the rising tensions surrounding Al-Aqsa, has reportedly sent an official delegation to Azerbaijan, where the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People is currently convening, in order to brief the committee on the recent developments.

Abbas emphasized the importance of Arab and Muslim-majority countries taking a stand on Israeli threats to Muslim and Christian holy places, urging these nations to support Palestinians’ struggle in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) leader went on to warn Israel against attempts to violate international law and create new facts on the ground.

In a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Abbas also requested that Turkey intercede with the United States and Israel to make Israel back down from its procedures in Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud held Israeli authorities fully responsible for the escalation of tensions in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, noting that the recent declaration of expansion of an illegal settlement northeast of Jerusalem -- which would further cut off East Jerusalem from Ramallah -- would only cause more tensions.

Al-Mahmoud added that the international community needed to defend UN resolutions condemning Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and settlement expansion more than ever in order to counter Israel’s increased procedures against Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian National Council -- the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) -- the Jordanian Chamber of Deputies, and the National Assembly of Kuwait called on the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union to hold an urgent session on the matter.

Saudi newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted former Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Hatem Abd al-Qadir as saying that Israel had been given a 24-hour ultimatum, set to expire on Thursday evening, to remove the metal detectors at Al-Aqsa, while the United States and Arab states were reportedly working to defuse tensions in Jerusalem, Israeli news outlet Ynet reported on Thursday.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov has stated on Thursday that he was “deeply concerned” by the situation, and called “on all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation and on moderate voices to speak up against those who try to fuel tensions.”

The United States government expressed concern on Wednesday regarding the ongoing crisis, calling on “the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to make a good faith effort to reduce tensions and to find a solution that assures public safety and the security of the site and maintains the status quo.”

Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. However, non-Muslims are permitted to visit the site during designated times.

Palestinians have long feared that Israel has been attempting to shake up the status quo at the holy site, in the shape of routine Jewish incursions on the site and right-wing Israeli calls to demolish the mosque and replace it with a third Jewish temple.
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