The head of the Arab League warned Thursday that Israeli attempts to control highly sensitive religious sites in Jerusalem by force risk igniting a “religious war”.
Israel’s actions are “playing with fire, and will only ignite a religious war and shift the core of the conflict from politics to religion”, Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said.
He was speaking at an urgent meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on the latest violence in Jerusalem.
“I invite the occupying state (Israel) to carefully learn the lessons from this crisis and the message it holds,” Abul Gheit said in a televised speech.
“Handling holy sites lightly and with this level of arrogance seriously threatens to ignite a religious war, since not one single Muslim in the world would accept the desecration of (Jerusalem’s) Al-Aqsa mosque,” he said.
Protests and deadly unrest have erupted in the days since Israel installed new metal detectors on July 16 outside the entrance to the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
The Arab League “condemns in the strongest terms Israel’s plans and policies that aim to Judaise the occupied city of Jerusalem and distort its Arab and Muslim character,” the foreign ministers said in their closing statement.
“East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state,” the organisation said, “expressing its rejection and condemnation of all measures by the occupying force to diminish Palestinian rights of sovereignty over it.”
Palestinians view the move as an attempt by Israel to assert further control over the site, which houses the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Israeli police and Palestinians clashed Thursday as thousands of Muslim worshippers entered the compound, ending a boycott after Israel removed the new security measures installed after a July 14 attack killed two policemen.