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Abbas says Israeli crackdown on Palestinians will ignite “religious conflict”
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A image grab taken from Palestinian TV shows Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas delivering a speech on October 14, 2015 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP PHOTO/PALESTINIAN TV)

A image grab taken from Palestinian TV shows Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas delivering a speech on October 14, 2015 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP PHOTO/PALESTINIAN TV)

Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Wednesday that Israel’s “aggressive offensive” against Palestinians and their holy sites could “ignite a religious conflict” in the entire world, insisting that no changes to the status quo of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound would be accepted.

“We unequivocally and clearly say that we won’t accept a change of the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Abbas said Wednesday in his first address to the Palestinian people since violence escalated in Jerusalem two weeks ago.

The Palestinians fear the Israeli government will change the current arrangement at the holy site where only Muslims are allowed to pray.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered holy by both Muslims and Jews and access to the site has always been a point of contention between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Abbas threatened to submit a case at the International Criminal Court against “field executions” of Palestinians whom Israel accuses of carrying out knife attacks on Jews.

“We won’t remain hostage to agreements that are not honored by Israel and we will continue to join international conventions and treaties. We will present new cases to the International Criminal Court about the field executions against our sons, daughters and grandchildren,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli authorities bolstered security measures in East Jerusalem on Wednesday, setting up checkpoints and roadblocks at the entrances to the city’s Arab neighborhoods.

Israeli Border Police placed vehicles at the entrance to Jabal Al-Mukabbir, home to a considerably large Arab population and three Palestinian attackers, to seal off the central neighborhood in a measure described as “a recipe for harassment and abuse.”

This and other security steps recently approved by the Israeli cabinet would allow deployment of greater numbers of security personnel and military units in “sensitive areas” across Jerusalem in response to a surge in Palestinian knife attacks the Israeli government described as a “wave of terrorism.”

“Locking down East Jerusalem neighborhoods will infringe upon the freedom of movement of all Palestinian residents rather than being a narrowly tailored response to a specific concern,” Human Rights Watch has said in a statement.

Israel said the measure was for security purposes and did not mean to divide the city politically.