Hamas condemned U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Wednesday after the latter was photographed holding a picture of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa compound in which a Jewish temple has been superimposed over the famous mosque.
“This racist behavior reflects the U.S. partnership with the Israeli occupation in the assault on the sensibilities of the Palestinian people and the entire Arab and Muslim world,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.
Barhoum said the U.S. position “calls for the adoption of countermeasures with a view to protecting the Al-Aqsa Mosque and supporting our people in Jerusalem”.
In a statement issued earlier the same day, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, asked: “When will these despicable U.S. actions be met with a suitable Arab and Muslim response?”
The U.S. embassy in Israel responded to the criticisms by saying that Friedman had been unaware of the picture’s content.
“Ambassador Friedman was not aware of the image thrust in front of him when the photo was taken,” read an embassy statement.
“U.S. policy is absolutely clear: we support the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” it added, in reference to the flashpoint religious site.
Last December, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
The abrupt shift in longstanding U.S. policy sparked angry demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories and in several Muslim countries.
Recent protests in the Gaza Strip have left scores of Palestinians martyred -- and thousands more injured -- by Israeli army gunfire.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- occupied by Israel since 1967 -- might eventually serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.
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