More clashes at al-Aqsa Mosque as Abbas takes hit on Goldstone report

Palestinian protesters, angry at Israeli-imposed restrictions on access to the al-Aqsa Mosque, clashed with police in Jerusalem Oct. 9—the latest in a series of confrontations in the past two weeks. At least four Palestinians were arrested—bringing the total to 75 for the week—and 11 Israeli police reported injured. The violence clouded the visit of White House envoy, George Mitchell, who met separately that day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. (WSJ, Oct. 10)

Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad Al-Maliki, speaking at the UNESCO’s 35th general conference in Paris that day, urged member states to establish a special fund to protect the heritage of Jerusalem—which he said is suffering under Israel’s refusal to implement hundreds of international resolutions. Al-Maliki said Israel’s separation wall was causing untold damage to East Jerusalem, and that its construction reflects Israel’s lack of respect for cultural heritage. (Ma’an News Agency, Oct. 10)

Also that day, Islamic Jihad and Hamas held large rallies in the Gaza Strip in solidarity with the al-Aqsa Mosque protesters, and to oppose the Palestinian Authority’s decision to delay the Goldstone report. (Ma’an News Agency, Oct. 10) Meanwhile, two Israeli F16 warplanes dropped three bombs on the tunnels area in Rafah. Palestinian medical sources at Abu Yousef An-Najjar Hospital confirmed that no injuries had been reported, but family members of tunnel workers were flooding the hospital with calls to see if their sons were killed. (Ma’an News Agency, Oct. 10)

In an implicit admission of error, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered an investigation into why his own administration delayed international action on the UN report calling for investigations into possible Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip. There was an outpouring of public anger at Abbas when the PLO mission to the UN in Geneva dropped its endorsement of Justice Richard Goldstone’s report in the UN Human Rights Council last week. The PLO’s move, reportedly under US pressure, led the Council to delay action on Gaza until March 2010.

The latest official to condemn the PLO’s action is Salim Zanoun, speaker of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), who said he was “shocked” at the decision to delay action on the report. Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Bassem Khoury reportedly tendered his resignation over the PA’s involvement in the deferral of the report.

A coalition of 16 Palestinian human rights and legal organizations condemned the PA and PLO leadership in a news conference in Gaza over the weekend. “As human rights organizations we strongly condemn the Palestinian leaderships’ decision to defer the proposal endorsing all the recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission, and the pressure exerted by certain members of the international community,” the organizations said in a statement. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

“Abu Mazen has lost a lot from this,” said Shawan Jabarin, who runs the al-Haq human rights watchdog in Ramallah, using Abbas’s popular name. “Even the average man in the street thinks Abu Mazen has given up the rights of the victims and given up on pursuing Israeli war criminals.” (Ma’an News Agency, Reuters, Oct. 4)

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