JERUSALEM – A senior Al Aqsa leader whose group has been accused of associations with Hamas told WorldNetDaily yesterday recent Israeli digs near the Temple Mount and a plan to construct an underground visitors center near the Western Wall are really Jewish designs to destroy the mosque, potentially sparking deadly riots.
The group, which has previously been involved with Temple Mount violence, has been sending buses the past few weeks to Israeli Arab neighborhoods asking Muslims to “swarm” the Al Aqsa Mosque to protect it from “Jewish attacks,” WND has learned.
“The truth is these digs and plans are political in character and goal. It is part of the Israeli occupation and of the Israeli big plan to hurt Al Aqsa,” Sheik Kamal Hatib, vice-chairman of the Islamic Movement, told WND. “These diggings endanger the basis of the mosque. The Israelis want and hope that these works will contribute and hasten the destruction of the mosque. In that way they think they will not be accused that they have directly destroyed Al Aqsa.”
Hatib was responding to a new archeological site near the Mount recently unveiled by Israel, and Israeli plans announced last month to open an underground tourist center that will snake around pathways under the Western Wall.
Discoveries at the new site include a ritual bath from the period of the second Jewish Temple, destroyed in 70 A.D., and a wall archaeologists say dates to the first Jewish Temple, destroyed in 586 B.C. The findings were widely reported by the media as strengthening Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.
The visitors center, which opens next month, is built around the new findings and includes large glass windows that look into recently excavated sections of the Western Wall. Israel hopes the center, which also features a music and light show, will become a major tourist attraction.
But Hatib blasted the center and dig, warning, “The plans endanger the mosque. Al Aqsa is close to the hearts and is important to all the Palestinians, the Arabs and the Muslims all over the world and even to those who are not religious and are not members of Islamic movements. Every attack or any try to hurt the mosque [will result in] 1.5 billion Arabs and Muslims rushing to defend Al Aqsa.”
And Hatib is not just talking. The Islamic Movement the past few weeks has been sending buses to Jaffa and other Israeli Arab neighborhoods offering free trips to the Al Aqsa Mosque to “defend” the structure from “Jewish attacks,” Jaffa residents told WND.
“Oh holy Muslims swarm to Al Aqsa to defend it from the evil Jews who are attacking our holy mosque,” said a voice yesterday being blasted from a loudspeaker attached to a private bus in Jaffa, a witness said. “The Jews are trying to destroy our Al Aqsa.”
“The buses have been coming to our neighborhood almost daily,” a Jaffa resident said. “This is the [Islamic] Movement clearly trying to work up the Muslims against Israel.”
The bus yesterday was parked outside Jaffa’s Hassen Bek Mosque, which has previously been the scene of Arab-Israeli violence.
The Islamic Movement has been directly involved with violence connected to the Temple Mount. In 1996, the Movement was involved in riots in which 80 people were killed, erupting after Israel opened an archaeological tunnel alongside the Mount compound. The Movement was also reportedly involved in inciting Palestinians to throw stones at Jewish worshipers after then-prime ministerial candidate Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in 2000.
Hatib told WND the recent Israeli archeological findings are “nonsense. Finding pieces of one centimeter is nothing near our historical right that counts thousands of years before Israel and before Moses. I suggest to the Israeli and Jewish fanatics and to the Christian groups in America who support them to think about how to support peace and not war.”
In an interview with WND this weekend, Hatib said Jews have no historic connection to the Temple Mount.
“We absolutely believe that Al Aqsa, all its different parts, all its walls, all its courts, and everything down the mosque or up it, all these fully belong to the Muslims. Only to them. No one other than the Muslims has any right over Al Aqsa, or even over any grain of its sand.”
“About the Kotel (the Western Wall), we deny any relation between the Temple and the Al Aqsa Mosque. We believe that the Western Wall is part of the mosque and not the Wall of Lamentation, as the Jews say. … The Western wall is an inseparable part of the mosque.
Warned Hatib: “Any attack or any try to hurt the mosque will create an extraordinary situation in the Arab and the Muslim states. I believe that this will change the map of the whole Middle East, and the Israeli side will be the one to lose.”