RAMALLAH, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The Palestinian government slammed on Wednesday the initiation of an Israeli settlement project near Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem, urging the international community and Islamic states to act against it.
"Building this project next to Al-Aqsa Mosque and on lands that are considered part of it raises grave threats against Jerusalem and holy sites," Yousef Al-Mahmoud, a government spokesman, said in a press statement.
The spokesman called upon the international community to pressure Israel to stop this project, saying it harms "the Arab and humanitarian heritage, and is considered an assault against all international laws and norms."
Al-Mahmoud also blamed Israel for "aiming at distorting and changing the reality of Jerusalem through construction of settlements."
A day earlier, Palestinian sources said Israeli construction and engineering teams placed a large crane in the yards of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in preparation for building a tourist project.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred to both Muslims, who regard it as the third holiest site in Islam, and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.
It is located in a spacious compound widely known as Al-Haram Al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, inside the Old City of Jerusalem.
Al-Haram Al-Sharif has been administered by Jordanian Islamic Waqf Ministry since 1948, but after Israel took over, it was obliged to respect the status quo and not make any changes to the status, laws and institutions in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians fear that the Israeli government would seek to break this statue quo, particularly with the increased settlement projects after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital last December, which Palestinians believe have emboldened the Israeli government to accelerate its settlement projects in East Jerusalem.