Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Friday for the defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque against Israel. Abbas stated that the holy site was being desecrated by settlers and that a continued Palestinian presence is required there to protect it.
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Speaking at the West Bank town of Albira, Abbas stressed that a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital would be impossible.
Palestinians "must be present at the Al-Aqsa Mosque," he said. "We must stop them (the settlers) from entering by any means possible. This is our mosque and they have no right to enter it and defile it."
The Palestinian president called for actions to replace words in regards to Jerusalem. "Al Quds," said Abbas, referring to Jerusalem by its Arabic name, "has a special place in the heart of every Palestinian, of every Arab, be they Muslim or Christian, Al Quds is the jewel in the crown and the eternal capital of the Palestinian people, and without which there will be no state."
Abbas also reiterated the position held by the Palestinian leadership, in regards to seeking the acknowledgement of the UN Security Council, that the areas occupied by Israel since 1967 be recognized as the territory of a future Palestinian state, rather than contested areas, as considered by Israel
Concerning domestic Palestinian affairs, Abbas insisted on holding elections in the West Bank and Gaza within six months, and noted that the Fatah general committee will convene at the end of the year and "breathe life" into the organization by allowing the younger generation to assume leadership roles.
"We have faith in a generational shift, in the movement from one generation to the other, until the final goal is reached, in the form of Palestinian statehood," he said.
Meanwhile in Gaza, Hamas blamed the Palestinian Authority of harassing its activists in the West Bank and dispersing demonstrations organized by Hamas in support of Al-Aqsa. A statement issued by Hamas said PA police forces forcibly dispersed rallies organized by Hamas in Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah and detained some of its men.
Hamas said this was against Abbas's statements on defending Al-Aqsa and called on the Palestinian government and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to order the security agencies to follow the law.
Clashes between police and Palestinian youths erupted Monday on the Temple Mount, the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Palestinian rioters, some of them masked, hurled stones and threw firecrackers and firebombs at the police. A police force broke into the compound and was able to push the rioters back inside the mosque, amd to dismantle barricades set up by the protesters and close the doors, locking the rioters inside the mosque.
Since 2004, the Temple Mount is open to Jewish and non-Muslim tourists for a few hours each day.