Thousands of people attended the Islamic Movement's annual rally in Umm al-Fahm Friday and were privy to a special message from Turkish President Abdullah Gul, pledging his country's support to the Arab-Israeli cause.
In his message, read over the phone by the Turkish advisor for Mideast affairs, Gul assured participants that "Your brothers in Turkey will always lend their support to the protection of the al-Aqsa Mosque and all other holy sites in Jerusalem."
Gul's advisor also spoke of May's Gaza-bound aid sail, aboard which were, among others, Head of the Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah and Knesset Member Hanin Zuabi (Balad), saying "this freedom sail represents the profound link between us. Together we will protect the holy sites."
The annual rally, held for the 15th consecutive year, was sorely lacking Salah's presence. The sheikh, who is currently serving a five-month prison sentence for assaulting a police officer, did however send a statement which was read to rally goers, warning of the Jewish danger to al-Aqsa Mosque.
"This is the most perilous year for al-Aqsa. The dangers know no end. I believe that something will be done to al-Aqsa this year. The Jews are planning to build the Temple there, so we must be there all the time. We must also be in Jerusalem and support the families there, both financially and mentally."
"Al-Aqsa will be redeemed by blood and fire," his statement ended.
Rally in Umm al-Fahm (Photo: Panet website)
'UN trying to expose Israel'
High Arab Monitoring Committee Chairman Mohammad Zeidan also spoke at the rally. "You are paying the price for all of us," he said, referring to Salah.
"It was 15 years ago that you warned us that al-Aqsa would face danger and indeed, we are facing a great danger to the mosque. This rally is taking place at the same time as the al-Aqsa Intifada and the October Riots did, when (former Israeli PM Ariel) Sharon tried to go into the mosque.
"God is avenging him for what he tried to do in al-Aqsa Mosque and for what he did in Sabra and Shatila."
Zeidan, who was also aboard the Marmara, commented on the UN report probing the tragic results of the sail, saying "the international committees are trying to expose Israel to the world. Israel plotted the murder aboard the Marmara. They wanted to kill. They wanted to kill Sheikh Salah as well."
Last to address the crowd was Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy chief of the Northern Islamic Movement, who said that it was not just al-Aqsa Mosque that was in danger, but Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab nation as a whole.
"I call upon the leaders – you see the tunnels under al-Aqsa. The razed homes. The murder in Silwan – everything is in danger."
Turning his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Khatib mocked Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat: "You're entire life is about negotiations. What is there to talk about, the settlement freeze? There will be none. What about borders? The Palestinian prisoners? Al-Aqsa Mosque? What about all that? You are all just peddling illusions."
Commenting on Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's comments on possible territorial and land swap, Khatib said that "the only population swap we will agree to is for you to go back to Russia and for the refugees to come back from Syria and Lebanon.
As for the Israeli demand for recognition, he said: "You want recognition of a Jewish state? Do you think we will ever be outside this state? This is our homeland and no one will be given permission to negotiate on our behalf."
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