Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suggested Jews should be banned from a holy site revered by both Jews and Muslims after hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza participated in a Hamas-organized rally Friday over Jerusalem's flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque, the scene of recurring clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in recent days.
Leaving mosques after prayers in Gaza City, they chanted slogans pledging to defend the mosque and waved green flags, the color of the Islamist movement Hamas, the de facto ruler of Gaza. The rally was also attended by other Palestinian factions, including the militant Islamic Jihad.
Ismail Radwan, a Hamas leader, called on "our people in Jerusalem and the West Bank to defend al-Aqsa."
Police Spokeswoman Luba Samri said 5,000 people participated in Friday's prayers at al-Aqsa, which passed without event. Police had barred men under the age of 50 from accessing the holy site to prevent disturbances.
Abbas made the comments following recent clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli forces over what Palestinians see as Jewish encroachment on the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.
Abbas said Jews should be prevented from entering the site "by any means," adding that "this is our Noble Sanctuary... they have no right to enter and desecrate it."
Palestinians also say Israel is unfairly restricting access at the site. Israel limited male Muslim worshippers this past week to those 50 years old and older due to recent violence there.
The site is the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.
On Thursday, Hamas political leader, Khaled Mashal, called for Muslims to defend the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, saying Israel was trying to seize the site, which is revered in both Islam and Judaism.
Mashal, speaking in the Qatari capital Doha where he lives, said: "We call on all our people inside the country to hurry up to al-Aqsa to defend it."
On Wednesday, four Palestinians were arrested following clashes with police at the Old City site.
Two days earlier, demonstrators clashed with security officers when non-Muslims were to visit the site.
The site is the scene of frequent tensions and also houses the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine.
It is revered by Jews, who call it the Temple Mount, as the location of the biblical Jewish temples and considered Judaism's holiest place.
Non-Muslim visits to Al-Aqsa complex are permitted and regulated by police, but Jews are not allowed to pray at the site for fear it could trigger major disturbances. Instead, Jews pray at the Western Wall below.
Muslims fear Jewish presence on Al-Aqsa is aimed at usurping the site.
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that "Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo" there.
AP, AFP and Reuters contributed to this report