Al-Aqsa tension mounts, official warns of religious war

Jerusalem, Sep 13 (IANS) A senior Palestinian official on Sunday warned of a regional religious war that might break out as long as tension at the al-Aqsa mosque complex in East Jerusalem continues.

Mahmoud Habbash, the Palestinian judges chief, told Xinhua news agency that the reflection of endless Israeli attacks and assaults on al-Aqsa Mosque “will certainly be heading toward a religious war in the region.”

“The religious war may first break out between Israel and the Palestinians and it expands and includes the Arab World and the entire world,” said Habbsah, adding “Israel is the one which pushes everyone to a dangerous war.”

He called on the international community to intervene “to stop Israel’s practices and its attempts to divide al-Aqsa Mosque area into time and place”, adding “it is the duty of the Arabs and Muslims to protect our holy shrine.”

Habbash made the remarks on the clashes that erupted earlier on Sunday between dozens of Palestinians and Israeli police forces at yards of the mosque.

Palestinian sources said the police clashed with people at the mosque when they tried to move the people out of the mosque and deployed dozens of policemen outside the mosque.

The sources also said that the Israeli police forces arrested several Palestinians overnight from inside the mosque. The arrests came after police tried to prevent a group of Jewish settlers from entering the mosque area.

Tension grew on Sunday after a group of Jewish settlers headed by Israeli Minister of Agriculture Ori Ariel entered the yard of al-Aqsa Mosque.

An Israeli police spokeswoman said that according to the information the police received, dozens of Palestinian young men stayed inside al-Aqsa Mosque overnight.

The spokeswoman said the Palestinians stored stones and empty bottles and fireworks to prevent the police from closing the gate that leads to the mosque. When the police came to close the gate, the Palestinians threw stones at them, she added.

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