The sheikh of Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, said force was the only response appropriate for the Israeli attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem, in a statement to the Egyptian press Sunday.
"The events at Al-Aqsa mosque support the principle stipulating that only force deters force," Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi told the secular and liberal opposition newspaper Al Wafd.
"Force must be our only weapon with which to confront Israel," according to the sheikh of Al Azhar, who is appointed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and considered to be moderate.
Since Friday, 26 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with the Israeli security forces in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"Arabs and Muslims must rely on each other to give our Palestinian brothers the strength to crush that of their enemies," the sheikh was quoted as saying.
"What Israel has committed is a horrible crime, denounced by Sharia (Islamic law) and contrary to reason," he said.
He denounced as an "attack" and a "provocation" the visit Thursday by Israel's right-wing Likud leader Ariel Sharon to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which triggered the clashes.
Muslims and Arabs "must respond to these acts through deterrence and punishment and by any means likely to defeat these tyrants," Sheikh Tantawi said.
He said the bloody events on Friday and Saturday are "proof that Israel does not want peace, but wants to consolidate the occupation and impose its hegemony over the region."
Clashes resumed in the Palestinian territories Sunday following a tense calm overnight Saturday -- CAIRO (AFP)
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