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Arab leaders: Israel’s actions help worsen regional turmoil

- By Samy Magdy

CAIRO — Dozens of leaders and senior officials from Arab and Islamic countries warned on Sunday that Israeli actions in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank could worsen regional turmoil, as violence surges between Israel and the Palestinia­ns.

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

The high-level gathering came amid one of the deadliest periods of fighting in years in Jerusalem and the neighborin­g Israeli-occupied territory. Forty-five Palestinia­ns have been killed so far this year, according to a count by The Associated Press.

Palestinia­ns have killed 10 people on the Israeli side during that time.

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

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

There was no immediate comment from Israel’s government.

The officials also voiced support for Jordan’s role as custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

The mosque is built on a hilltop in Jerusalem’s Old City that is the most sacred site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the site of the Jewish temples in antiquity.

Since Israel captured the site in the 1967 Mideast War, Jews have been allowed to visit but not pray there.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinia­ns seek east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Calling Jerusalem “the backbone of the Palestinia­n cause,” el-Sissi warned of dire repercussi­ons of any Israeli move to change the status quo of the holy site, saying they would “negatively impact” future negotiatio­ns to settle the Israeli-Palestinia­n conflict.

He said such measures would impede the longsought-after two-state solution to the conflict, which would leave “both parties and the whole Middle East with difficult and grave options.”

El-Sissi, whose country was the first Arab nation to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, called on the internatio­nal community to “reinforce the two-state solution and create conducive conditions for the resumption of the peace process.”

King Abdullah II also called for Israel to cease its violations and incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“The region cannot live in peace, stability, and prosperity without any progress made on the Palestinia­n cause,” he warned.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the secretary-general of the pan-Arab organizati­on, also warned that attempts to partition the Al-Aqsa Mosque and obliterate its Arab and Islamic identity “would fuel endless unrest and violence.”

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

The bout of violence has put the region on edge. Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinia­n leaders and urged them to ease tensions.

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

 ?? AMR NABI/AP ?? Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, greets Palestinia­n President Mahmoud Abbas, center, and King Abdullah II of Jordan on Sunday in Cairo, Egypt.
AMR NABI/AP Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, greets Palestinia­n President Mahmoud Abbas, center, and King Abdullah II of Jordan on Sunday in Cairo, Egypt.

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