Abbas condemns Palestinian torching of Jewish shrine in West Bank


Tel Aviv (dpa) – Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Friday condemned protesters for setting fire to a Jewish shrine in the West Bank city of Nablus as calls for another “Day of Rage” provoked deadly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.

Abbas called for the immediate repair of the holy site, believed by Jews to be the final resting place of the biblical figure Joseph, son of the patriarch Jacob.

Palestinians are opposed to violent tactics that are not compatible with their cultural and religious understanding, Abbas said from his residence in Ramallah.

No one was injured in the blaze, which started overnight when a large group of people threw Molotov cocktails at the shrine, Israeli officials told the website Ynetnews.

Security forces from the Palestinian Authority dispersed the crowd and extinguished the fire, the officials said.

Hamas, the Islamist movement in charge of the Gaza Strip, called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday with the movement’s deputy chief, Ismail Haniyeh, saying the Palestinian uprising against Israel “is in its beginning and it has to continue.”

Haniyeh’s remarks were made in a recorded speech that aired Friday on Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV station, based in Gaza City.

“The intifada should be more violent in order to defend Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said, referring to third-holiest site in Islam.

The mosque sits on the flashpoint site in the Old City called the Temple Mount by Jews and the Noble Sanctuary by Muslims. Violence and demonstrations over access to the site, which is holy to both religions, began last week.

The unrest has been fuelled by Palestinian charges that Israel wants to change the status quo observed for decades at the site, where Jews may visit but not pray. Instead, they may pray at an ancient retaining wall, known as the Wailing Wall.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vehemently denied any plans to change the status quo at the site, which houses al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine as well as the ruins of the biblical Jewish temple.

Following calls for violence by Hamas and other Palestinian factions, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police were reported in Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus and Tulkarm soon after the end of Friday prayers.

Dozens of young Palestinian men headed to the border areas between Israel and the northern and eastern Gaza Strip to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers.

The soldiers responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets, which medical officials in Nablus saying the violence left a 20-year-old Palestinian man dead and more than 12 wounded.

Ashraf al-Qedra, Gaza’s Health Ministry spokesman, told reporters that two Palestinians were killed and 100 injured by Israeli soldiers’ gunfire at the border areas.

Israel anticipated the outbreak of violence and dispatched army reinforcements to the West Bank, a move that followed Wednesday’s unprecedented security cabinet decision to block off Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem to impede Palestinian access to predominantly Jewish areas.

In Jerusalem, Friday prayers ended peacefully as hundreds who were not allowed by Israeli police to reach al-Aqsa Mosque held prayers in the streets.

There have been 22 Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israelis since October 6 and one stabbing attack by an Israeli against Palestinians.

According to medical sources, 12 Palestinians have been killed and 200 injured during a week of clashes with Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip while in the West Bank, 23 Palestinians have been killed and 2,000 injured.