Abbas Calls for Protection of Jerusalem Holy Sites

President Mahmoud Abbas stressed Tuesday the need to protect Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites, speaking on the anniversary of an attempted arson of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Abbas said the fire, which was set by an Australian in 1969, was "the first (attack) in a series that aimed to demolish the Al-Aqsa Mosque to make way to build the (third) temple."

The president’s office said in a statement that Israeli excavation work in Jerusalem and tunnels underneath the holy site would not undermine the fact that the city has an Arab identity.

It said there would be no peace and stability without an end to the occupation and settlements in Jerusalem.

Abbas’ remarks came at the end of Ramadan, during which thousands of Palestinians visited the mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City after Israel unexpectedly eased restrictions.

Israeli officials said they had lowered the age limit for men wanting to visit and had also handed out seven times more permits to Palestinians.

Religious authorities said up to half a million people visited the third holiest site last Tuesday, many of them from the West Bank, as visitors and pilgrims flowed through the checkpoints.


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