RAMALLAH, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Palestinians have condemned Israeli settlers' entry into Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem and Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank, amid rising violence and conflicts between the two sides.
NEW WAVE OF VIOLENCE
Palestinian eyewitnesses told Xinhua that Israeli settlers performed religious rituals and prayers to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover at Ibrahimi Mosque in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, under the protection of the Israeli army while Palestinians' movement at the mosque was impeded by Israeli soldiers.
Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem also said that hundreds of Israeli settlers entered Al-Aqsa Mosque and performed religious rituals and prayers to celebrate Passover under tightened security measures.
Over the past weeks, tension between Israelis and Palestinians has flared up in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, especially after Passover began on Friday during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Some 200 Palestinians have been injured in the recent wave of clashes in East Jerusalem, mainly at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, while scores of Israeli also died in a spate of deadly attacks in Israel.
Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Xinhua that Israeli police arrested three Palestinians at the mosque and fired teargas and sound bombs at Palestinian worshipers.
Rafiq Al-Jabari, Hebron governor's deputy, warned of the danger of keeping the Ibrahimi Mosque closed, noting that the Israeli government continues imposing restrictions on the residents of and visitors to the old city of Hebron, "which makes the living condition in the city very difficult."
Hussein Al-Sheikh, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, condemned the Israeli government for permitting Jewish settlers to enter the Ibrahimi Mosque and Al-Aqsa Mosque compounds.
The rising violence has raised concerns among the international community, with global leaders and officials calling for calm and de-escalation.
Following the clashes on Friday, UN Secretary-general Antonio Guterres called on leaders on all sides to help ease the deteriorating situation, and insisted that "provocations" on the Holy Esplanade must stop immediately.
The status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem, he said, must be upheld and respected, according to a message released by Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesperson for Guterres.
On Tuesday, Shadi Othman, a European Union (EU) communication official in Jerusalem, told reporters that the EU was following the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and working with all parties "to avoid more escalation and more tension."
He urged Israel "to fulfill its commitments under international law and the signed peace agreements," and also allow worshiping at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Muslim month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has contacted several world leaders over the violent clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
On Tuesday, Abbas discussed with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on phone about the current tension, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.
Abbas explained to Blinken that dozens of Israeli settlers broke into the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque every day, which "is a flagrant violation of the historical and legal situation of the mosque."
Blinken said that Israel should be informed to be committed to the historical situation of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the freedom and safety of Muslim worshipers at the mosque, adding that his country rejects the settlers' violence, according to the report. ■