Arab leaders condemn Israeli actions in Jerusalem, West Bank

CAIRO (AP) – Dozens of leaders and senior officials from Arab and Islamic countries on Sunday condemned recent Israeli measures in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, where violence between Israel and the Palestinians has increased.

The meeting in Cairo was hosted by the Arab League and was attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas along with many foreign ministers and senior officials.

Speakers at the meeting condemned Israel’s “unilateral measures” in Jerusalem and the West Bank in statements, including home demolitions and settlement expansion.

They also condemned visits by Israeli officials to the city’s disputed holy site, which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims and has often been the epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian unrest.

There were no immediate comments from the Israeli government.

Officials also expressed support for Jordan’s role as caretaker of the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The mosque is built on a hill in the Old City of Jerusalem, the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because it was the site of Jewish temples in ancient times.

Since Israel took over the site in 1967, Jews have been allowed to visit but not to pray there. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

El-Sissi warned of dire repercussions of any Israeli steps to change the site’s status quo, saying they would “negatively impact” future negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said such measures would hamper a long-sought solution to the conflict, which would leave “both sides and the entire Middle East with difficult and grave options”.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the pan-Arab organisation’s secretary general, also warned that attempts to divide the Al-Aqsa mosque and erase its Arab and Islamic identity “would fuel unending riots and violence”.

Abbas, the Palestinian president, said his administration would appeal to the United Nations and its agencies and ask for a resolution to protect the two-state solution to the conflict.

“The State of Palestine will continue to turn to international courts and organizations to protect the legitimate rights of our people,” he said.

The Cairo rally came amid one of the bloodiest bouts of fighting in recent years in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Forty-five Palestinians have been killed so far this year, according to a tally by the Associated Press. Palestinians killed 10 people on the Israeli side during that time.

The ongoing wave of violence has thrown the region into turmoil. Last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian leaders and urged them to ease tensions.

Israel is led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government. Many politicians in the Netanyahu administration oppose Palestinian independence.

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