The Palestinian government has called on its “fighters” to launch a “day of rage” against Israel on Friday that will include armed attacks in Jerusalem, a move that has sparked fears that widespread riots could wreak havoc on the holy city.
Israeli authorities shut down access to Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque late Wednesday following the shooting of a Jewish citizen by Palestinian terrorists.
Israel’s call to block access to the Temple Mount area of Jerusalem’s Old City—the first such closure since 1967—led the Palestinian government to call for armed resistance and accuse Israel of declaring war.
“Fatah calls to its fighters and to the masses of the Palestinian people to aid the Al-Aqsa Mosque and occupied Jerusalem,” the Palestinians’ main political party said in a statement publishedThursday and translated by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
“The movement called to set tomorrow as a day of rage throughout the homeland and in countries which are home to refugees, to express the Palestinian people’s opposition to any attack on the holy places and foremost among them the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the statement said. “Consider desecration of Al-Aqsa as a declaration of a religious war against the Palestinian people and the Arab Islamic nations.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also escalated tensions on Thursday by accusing Israel of declaring war on the Palestinian people.
“This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina quoted the leader as saying in comments made to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.
“We hold the Israeli government responsible for this dangerous escalation in Jerusalem that has reached its peak through the closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque this morning,” Abbas reportedly said.
Middle East analysts expressed great concern about the situation and said that Abbas’s rhetoric could spark renewed violence in Jerusalem, a city that has experienced relative calm for quite some time.
“There is a very unique phenomenon we’re observing right now, unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
Abbas’ comments accusing Israel of declaring war via its closure of the Temple Mount could make an already volatile situation even worse.
“Abbas is taking a potentially combustible situation and pouring gasoline on it,” Schanzer said.