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Hamas, Fatah condemn Israel on 48th anniversary of Al-Aqsa arson attack

Aug. 22, 2017 1:54 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 22, 2017 4:24 P.M.)
Palestinian women demonstrate in front of the Dome of the Rock on September 27, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian political factions commemorated on Monday the 48th anniversary of the day Australian citizen Denis Michael Rohan set fire to the eastern part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.

Both the Fatah and Hamas movements released separate statements on Monday using the anniversary of the 1969 arson to reiterate their condemnations of ongoing Israeli aggressions at the holy site, according to Turkish Anadolu news agency.

“As an occupying power, Israel has no sovereignty over East Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque and its environs,” the Fatah statement said.

Meanwhile, Hamas deplored that the Al-Aqsa Mosque has continued to suffer under “the burden of the Zionist occupation, which violates our holy sites, demolishes our shrines, and continues to dig tunnels under the (Al-Aqsa) mosque”.

Hamas went on to praise the “steadfastness” of the Palestinian resistance, saying “the crimes of the Zionist enemy and its continued violations against our people, land and holy sites will only serve to strengthen our resolve and our refusal to recognize the Zionist entity.”

The Al-Aqsa compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The third holiest site in Islam, it is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

Rohan, a Christian, claimed that he was "the Lord's emissary," and that he tried to destroy the mosque upon divine instructions in order to enable the Jews of Israel to rebuild the Temple, thereby hastening the second coming of Jesus Christ.

The arson attack, Anadolu noted, destroyed several parts of the historic mosque, including a 1,000-year-old wood-and-ivory pulpit dating back to the time of Muslim Sultan Saladin.

Following his arrest over the arson, Rohan was tried and found to be mentally insane, and hospitalized in a mental institution in Australia.

Several right-wing Israeli settler organizations today actively push for the destruction of Al-Aqsa in order to build a Third Temple in its place.

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.

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