By Times of Israel—
The Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party called Saturday for a continued struggle “to take control of the Al-Aqsa mosque.”
In a statement sent to supporters, the movement of PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the “campaign for Jerusalem has effectively begun, and will not stop until a Palestinian victory and the release of the holy sites from Israeli occupation,” the Walla news site reported.
Fatah commended Palestinian protesters who rioted in the streets of Jerusalem on Friday against the deployment of metal detectors at the Temple Mount compound, with three reportedly killed by Israeli security forces in the violence and some 200 others wounded.
The party hailed those demonstrators’ “initifada (or armed struggle) against the enemy,” their “acts for the protection of Al-Aqsa and their struggle against the Israeli plans, while sacrificing souls and blood.”
Th group called for three days of mourning as well as a general strike in honor of the dead protesters.
Four East Jerusalem residents were arrested overnight Friday on suspicion of involvement in the riots, police said.
Israel placed the metal detector gates at entrances to the Mount after a July 14 terror attack in which three Arab-Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers there with guns they had smuggled into the holy site.
But Fatah claimed the Israeli move was a “racist” plot to “Jewify and take over Al-Aqsa” and said no solution was acceptable other than a return to the previous state of affairs on the Mount.
Abbas announced late Friday he was freezing all contacts with Israel until it “commits to canceling all the measures against our Palestinian people in general and Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque in particular.”
Abbas said the installation of the metal detectors was “falsely presented as a security measure to take control over Al-Aqsa mosque.”
“The steps taken by Israel are leading to a religious confrontation and an evasion from a diplomatic process,” Abbas was also quoted by Haaretz as saying.
Abbas said he had spoken with several heads of state, including from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and asked them to intervene in the Temple Mount conflict.
The PA president said the Palestinian Authority would finance all costs of treating those wounded of Friday’s clashes. “We will spend $25 million supporting the Palestinians of Jerusalem,” he reportedly said.
He also called on Hamas to rally around the cause of the Temple Mount and reconcile with his own party.
The drastic escalation on Friday came a week after two Israeli Border Police officers were killed by terrorists at the Temple Mount. In the wake of the attack, Israel closed the site for 48 hours as it searched for more weapons, and then installed metal detector gates at entrances to the compound.
The Islamic Waqf, Jordanian custodians of the holy site, opposed the presence of the metal detectors and called on Palestinians and Israeli Arabs not to enter the site to pray there.
After the attack last week, Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone and Abbas condemned the violence but also demanded the compound be immediately reopened.
Israel did not immediately respond to Abbas’s announcement on Friday night. It was not clear whether the PA president’s statement on ceasing “all contacts” included security coordination between the IDF and Palestinian Authority security forces. The PA’s security forces and the IDF have been working closely to stem terror attacks and other violence.
Although Israel and the PA have not held peace talks for three years, cooperation between the respective security forces in maintaining calm in the West Bank has been ongoing.
The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews, as the site of the biblical temples. It is the third holiest site in Islam, where it is known as the Al-Aqsa compound or Noble Sanctuary, as the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war, but allowed the Jordanian-appointed Waqf to continue to administer its Muslim holy sites there under overall Israeli security control. Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray there.