JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Israel’s decision to include two West Bank sites as national heritage sites "a serious provocation which may lead to a religious war."
Abbas made the comments in Brussels Tuesday regarding the addition of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron to a list of 150 national heritage sites that Israel will rehabilitate and promote as part of a $100 million renovation and restoration plan.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah in Gaza called on Palestinians to launch a new intifada to protest the move.
"Jerusalem is ours, the land is ours and God is with us," he said, according to reports. "We will not accept these decisions and they will have no ramifications" to the Palestinians.
An Islamic Jihad spokesman told Ynet Tuesday that his terrorist organization would begin attacking sites within Israel, not just in the West Bank, in reaction to the decision.
"If the Israelis continue to damage our mosques and holy places, we will respond within the Zionist territory," a spokesman for the al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, was quoted as saying.
"As far as we are concerned, the annexation of the mosques to the heritage sites is another move of aggression and a move aimed at completing the Judaization of the holy sites — and all the organizations are required to respond."
The Ibrahami Mosque, a site holy to Muslims, is part of the Cave of the Patriarchs complex.
Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom called the Palestinians objection to calling the sites part of Israel’s national heritage "insolent and outrageous and another attempt to rewrite history."
Shalom pointed out that both sites were purchased for their full value, as recorded in the Bible.