The top Palestinian Islamic cleric or mufti has warned of a bloodbath if Jews tried to increase their presence at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third most sacred site in Islam, the Palestinian media reported Friday.
Mufti Ikrima Sabri envisioned mass bloodshed if Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert continued with his push for Jews to pray on top of what they call the Temple Mount and what Muslims refer to as the Noble Sanctuary.
"We'd rather die and be martyrs than see (al Aqsa) in the hands of the extremists," Sheikh Sabri said in a statement reprinted in the semi-official Hayat al-Jadida newspaper.
"We stress and affirm to Olmert and his followers that touching al-Aqsa mosque will lead to slaughters and bloodbaths," the statement added.
Olmert and other right-wing Jews routinely complain that they are not given adequate access to pray on top of the holy plateau, which is partially supported by the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.
Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from atop the same hill inside the walled Old City of Jerusalem, the divided city whose fate is the most emotive issue dividing Israel and the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, the Jews calim that the site houses the remains of a temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and extremist Jews intend to rebuild it where the mosques stand now.
Jewish religious tradition known as Halacha, however, forbids Jews from walking on top of the mount, considering it too sacred.
The Islamic Waqf which controls the mosque network, allows Jews to enter the compound, but only in limited numbers, and does not permit them to bring prayer books.
The Palestinians said Thursday that as part of proposals to divide control of occupied east Jerusalem, Israel had suggested putting al-Aqsa under the custody of the United Nations and several Arab and Islamic states - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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