Middle East Condemnation Spreads over Israeli Violence in Jerusalem
Condemnation poured out from around the Middle East Saturday over what Saudi Arabia called Israel's "brutal aggression" during clashes with Palestinians in Jerusalem this week.
On Friday, Israeli security forces shot and killed seven Palestinians in the compound of the holy mosques in Jerusalem and wounded another 220, some of them seriously, according to a Palestinian count.
Clashes first broke out in the mosque compound on Thursday, following a controversial visit by Israeli right wing leader Ariel Sharon.
That was followed by more serious violence Friday in which 220 people were injured in addition to those killed.
In Riyadh, a government spokesman said Saturday that "Saudi Arabia condemns the brutal aggression perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians in Jerusalem."
Sharon's visit was "an affront to the feelings of the Palestinian people and the Islamic nation and a violation of the sacred nature of the Islamic places" in Jerusalem, said the spokesman, quoted by the SPA news agency.
He called on the international community to "take measures to guarantee the protection of the holy places in Jerusalem against such violations," saying the Arab-Israeli peace process depended on the Palestinian people recovering "their national rights, in particular the right to establish and independent state with Jerusalem as its capital."
The area, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, is the third most sacred site in Islam. For the Jews, who call it Temple Mount, it is also the site of the temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and their holiest place.
Saudi King Fahd said in a statement published in Saturday's edition of the daily Al-Watan that Israel "is making a mistake in hindering the peace process" and "imagining that by its obstinacy it is able to wipe out or marginalise Palestinian rights."
In Jordan, Foreign Minister Abdel-Ilah Khatib denounced the "escalation (of violence) and the provocative acts at the sacred Islamic sites of Jerusalem that have infuriated the Palestinians and brought about the confrontations of the past two days."
In a statement published by the official Petra news agency, he called on the Israeli government to "take the necessary steps to avoid the resumption of the provocative acts that complicate the situation even more" during the decisive juncture through which the peace process is passing.
He also said that a solution would be to permit the Palestinians "to establish their independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital."
The Iranian government, which does not recognize Israel and is opposed to the peace process, reacted harshly.
A foreign ministry spokesman called the latest incidents Israel's "new crime," and lambasted what he said was "an attack on the faithful, praying and defenseless, martyring several of them, with the sole objective of Judaizing Al-Qods (the Arabic name for Jerusalem)."
Hamid-Reza Assefi went on to say that the "permanent crimes of this regime are in complete contradiction with the claims of (its) leaders, who pretend they want peace."
The Syrian government newspaper Tishrin called Friday's events a "massacre," claiming that Israeli leaders "systematically use massacres and assassinations to carry out their expansionist plans.
"It appears as if the failure of Israeli negotiators to persuade the Palestinians to abandon Jerusalem has caused Israel's leaders to lose their heads," the newspaper continued - NICOSIA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)