With the Jerusalem Marathon set to take place March 1, the Palestinian Authority is warning Israel not to use the race to “Judaize” the city, presenting it as a “unified capital of Israel,” said the chairman of the PLO's action committee, Ahmed Qureia. Qureia is also the head of the “Al-Aqsa Department” in the PA, and on Sunday he warned Israel to ensure that marathoners stay away from the Temple Mount, where the mosque is located.
Runners from some 50 countries are expected at this year's marathon. Announcing the event, the Jerusalem Municipality announced that this year, the runners' route would take them past many historic sites in Jerusalem, both in the Old City and the New City.
Qureia said that, as it has in the past, Israel was “using” the event to promote an image of a unified, Jewish city. “This has been Israel's strategy since 1967, and it has resulted in land confiscations and expulsions of Palestinians,” he said. Qureia warned the Municipality and the Israeli government to ensure that the runners stay away from the Temple Mount, and preferably all Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. He did not say how Arabs would react if the routes were not adjusted to his instructions.
Meanwhile, a Hamas spokesperson, Tahar al-Nunu, on Sunday blamed Israel for “destroying many historical buildings in Jerusalem that show the Muslim and Arab connection to the city,” for expelling Muslim residents from their homes, and “ongoing defiling of the Al-Aqsa mosque.”
Nunu said that Israel's recent actions were a prelude to actual attempts to destroy the mosque, with the intent of “erecting the false Jewish Holy Temple.” Nunu said that Israel's actions would lead “to a major conflict, and not just in the media.”