The Arab League has accused Israel of trying to alter the geography and features of Jerusalem with its renovation work near the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Arab League Chief Amr Moussa described the renovation work as an Israeli attempt to tighten control over Jerusalem, and change the features of the holy city. He said it threatens the stability of the region. The Arab League urged the United Nations to intervene and stop the digging near the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam.
For Jews, it is the Temple Mount, the site of two biblical Temples and the holiest place in Judaism. Israel began renovating a damaged walkway leading to the holy place last week. Israel's Cabinet says the work will continue, and would not endanger the mosque in any way.
Arab League spokesman Alaa Roushdy said Arab leaders consider the construction a violation of an UNESCO resolution, and fear it will change the demography of Jerusalem. He says that with the issue of Jerusalem, it was not the first time something happened in the al-Aqsa area. The changing of demography of Jerusalem is of great issue. There were resolutions from UNESCO that state the al-Aqsa area was a cultural heritage that should not be changed.T
he work near the mosque has sparked protests across the region. On Friday, thousands of anti-riot police clashed with protesters near al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, and prevented worshippers from attending Friday prayers. Arab League spokesperson Alaa Roushdy said the issue could jeopardize efforts to calm Israeli-Palestinian tensions, including a planned summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He said that they saw that the Israelis were adamant in continuing what they were doing. They hoped this would stop. At a time when everyone wastrying to talk about peace, - there is a new Palestinian government, there is a meeting that will take place between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas - these kinds of actions would be undermining efforts.
An Israeli Cabinet minister says Israel has the right to maintain the holy places near the Western Wall. The holy site surrounding the mosque has been a frequent flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians. The second Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000 following a controversial visit by then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon.