Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas said Saturday legal measures would be taken to prevent Jewish settlers from attacking Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, having said their presence desecrates the site.
His remarks follow a recent spate of clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police, which erupted when Jews were to visit the complex.
Muslims fear Jewish presence on Al-Aqsa is aimed at usurping the site.
“The Palestinian leadership will be taking the necessary legal measures, at the international level, regarding the aggression of settlers on the Al-Aqsa mosque,” Abbas said in a speech to the Revolutionary Council of his Fatah party.
“We will not allow settlers to attack the mosque,” he added, referring to the entire compound, which is the third holiest site in Islam.
Non-Muslim visits to Al-Aqsa complex are permitted and regulated by police, but Jews are not allowed to pray at the site for fear it could trigger major disturbances, nor do they enter the mosques there.
Jews pray instead at the Western Wall below.
The site is the scene of frequent tensions and also houses the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine.
It is revered by Jews, who call it the Temple Mount, as the location of the biblical Jewish temples and considered Judaism’s holiest place.
On Friday, Abbas had pledged to bar settlers from entering the Al Aqsa compound “by any means.”
“They have no right to enter it and desecrate it,” he said of the visiting Israeli Jews.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman criticised those remarks, which he said showed that Abbas was “trying to inflame the situation by using the most sensitive place, the Temple Mount.”
The Palestinian leader’s statements proved that “Abbas and the PA were behind the riots” on the compound, Lieberman said in a Saturday statement.
Lieberman further said Abbas’s remarks were “incitement against Israelis and Jews and a call for a religious war,” which put Abbas “in one front with extremist Islamic organisations, like IS (Islamic State) and Al-Nusra Front, which sanctify a holy war.”