Saturday, April 09, 2005

Fury, Threats Over Jewish Plans to Storm Al-Aqsa

The planned storming risks flare-up in the region.

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, April 8 ( & News Agencies) – Thousands of Israeli police deployed in Occupied Jerusalem's Old City and denied many Palestinians access into Al-Aqsa Mosque for prayers Friday, April 8.

The Israeli measures came amid rising tension and fury over plans by Jewish extremists to storm Islam’s third holiest site Sunday, April 10, seeking to stall Israel’s planned withdrawal from the occupied Gaza this summer.

Thousands of Palestinians took to streets for protests, where leading resistance groups vowed to walk away from the current truce if Jewish ultra-nationalists enter the shrine this weekend, according to Reuters.

Eight factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, issued a warning after news of a rally scheduled for Sunday, April 10, by thousands of ultra-nationalists.

In a statement, Palestinian factions said they would abandon a three-month-old de facto truce if “Zionist extremists storm the mosque compound ... Such an act would be a declaration of all-out war and the calm would come to an end”.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians, including masked gunmen, marched in Gaza Friday to back up the factions’ threat.

Israel said it would ban non-Muslims from the site, revered by Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to prevent far-right Israelis rallying there, according to Reuters.

Several hard-line lawmakers said they had hoped to use their parliamentary status to get around the ban. They, too, were told they would be prohibited from visiting the mosque compound, according to Reuters.

But Revava, the far-right group organizing the rally, has pledged to go ahead anyway, saying its supporters would get as close to the holy site as possible.

On March 16, Israel's Channel Two television showed a video of Jewish rabbis and far-right extremists discussing ways to occupy the Aqsa compound at a secret meeting in the Old City.


Thousands of Palestinians, including masked gunmen, marched in Gaza to denounce Jewish plans to storm Al-Aqsa. (Reuters)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters he had received assurances from Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz that security forces would prevent any attack on the compound in Al-Aqsa, according to Reuters Friday.

An attack on the compound could inflame Muslims worldwide and jeopardize US-backed efforts to revive Middle East peace talks, according to Reuters.

Sunday is the eve of a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush in Texas.

Palestinians began their Intifadah in 2000 after Sharon, then opposition leader, toured the compound under heavy security.

Israel bars Jewish prayer in the compound to avoid aggravating tensions. But police restored access for Israelis and other non-Muslims in 2003 after a years-long security ban.

On Friday, they denied access to Muslim men under 40 and to anyone without a Jerusalem residence card in a bid to limit numbers and prevent tempers flaring.

Police commanders said the prayers passed off without major incident.

Three groups of faithful who had been denied access to the mosque compound gathered by the walls of the Old City between Damascus Gate and the Rockerfeller museum to pray in the street, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer said.

The Palestinian leadership warned Thursday that any attack on the compound “would be an aggression against the Arab and Islamic nations”.

Several times before, Israeli occupation forces had stormed the mosque’s esplanade and clashed with Muslim worshipers.

On April 12, 2004, at least 70 Palestinians were injured when Israeli forces stormed the mosque compound.

Archeologists have also warned that ongoing Israeli excavations weakened the foundations of Al-Aqsa mosque, cautioning it would not stand a powerful earthquake.

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