Egyptian FM attacked by young Palestinians in Al Aqsa Mosque
Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher was rushed to an Israeli hospital Monday afternoon with light injuries after being attacked by young Palestinians during a visit to al Aqsa Mosque, Israel Radio reported. According to the report, the Palestinians chanted towards Maher he was "traitor," who comes to pray in an occupied area.
Witnesses reported that the Egyptian was shoved and heckled, and that items were thrown at him for climbing the mount via the Mugrabi Gate, which is generally an access route for non-Muslims. Maher suffered from shortness of breath, Israeli reports added. Witnesses said he was heard saying, "I'm going to choke, I'm going to choke" as he was being taken away.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack, and said it would find the culprits. PM Ahmed Qurei said the incident would not harm the Palestinian - Egyptian ties.
During his visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Maher was to meet with the directors of the Waqf, sources at the Muslim religious trust said Sunday. The director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, was expected to show the Egyptian foreign minister the renovation work being carried out on the mosque's southern wall by a Jordanian team.
Earlier in the day, Maher met with Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He arrived in Israel on Monday for the first time in two years.
Sharon extended an invitation to Jerusalem to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and welcomed Maher's visit. "I am sure that this visit will contribute to the strengthening of relations between Egypt and Israel. We have an interest in this. Egypt is the biggest and most important country in the Middle East," Sharon told The Associated Press. "I hope this visit will contribute to our relationship with the Palestinian Authority and our efforts to reach a peace agreement," he added.
"Peace has to be general and adapted to the needs of both sides, both Israelis and Palestinians," Maher said before meeting with Sharon. "We are convinced that Egypt will contribute to an overall peace in the region."
Later, the Egyptian minister met Israel's President Moshe Katsav, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Opposition leader Shimon Peres (Labor). Maher's talks in Israel centered on ways to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, on the backdrop of Egypt's efforts to mediate a cease-fire agreement among the Palestinian factions and Sharon's policy speech last week.
After meeting with Shalom, Maher told a news conference that he was optimistic that the truce talks with the Palestinian factions would be successful.
"Let's start this road which will lead us to a solution and to peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which will be beneficial to the whole region," Maher said. "So, I come out from here encouraged, but the encouragement needs to be followed up by actions, we hope to see actions from both sides as soon as possible." (Albawaba.com)
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