LONDON (Aug. 21)
The Arab world reacted with frenzy to a fire which destroyed part of the El Aksa mosque in Old Jerusalem this morning. Radio broadcasts in most Arab capitals blamed Israeli authorities for the mysterious blaze and called on 500 million Moslems all over the world to rise in a “jihad”–holy war–against Israel. But the radio exhortations, coming, some said, only minutes after the fire was announced, led some sources to believe that it was set by Arab arsonists in order to arouse religious fury against Israel.
In Amman, Jordanian Premier Bahjat el-Talhouni said his government considered Israel fully responsible and called the fire a “new aggression”. He said King Hussein has already sent letters to all Arab and Moslem chiefs of state appealing to them to defend their tradition, their religion, and their shrines. Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Abdel Moneum Rifai, was reported to have cabled protests to the United Nations Security Council, the General Assembly and to Secretary U Thant.
A call for a holy war was broadcast on Cairo radio by the Palestine Liberation Organization which accused Israel of deliberately burning the mosque. All Arab news broadcasts led off with the headline, “Israel burned the El Aksa mosque. They told listeners, “Islam is in danger, Arabism is in danger, the world is in danger.” Beirut radio called the fire “Part of an Israeli plan to Judaize Jerusalem and remove its Islamic and Christian landmarks. In Cairo, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, a Hitler collaborator and on the Allied wanted list during World War II, said the fire “should make us, Christians and Moslems alike, unify our ranks and do our utmost to liberate the holy lands from Israeli occupation.”