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Palestinians Tell Obama Mideast Visit Risks Violence, “Catastrophe”

Officials from the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas this week threatened President Barack Obama with violence and “catastrophe” during his upcoming March visit to the region.

Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs and a member of the Western-backed Fatah faction, instructed the president to pressure Israel to free security prisoners or face violence:

A Palestinian official also sent a warning to U.S. President Barack Obama, who plans to make his first trip to Israel as president next month. “If President Obama wants to visit the region peacefully, he should exert pressure on Israel to release the prisoners — especially the ones who are on hunger strike — or else he will visit while Palestine is on fire,” Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe said.

The Iran-backed terror group Hamas meanwhile threatened that a presidential visit to the Temple Mount area – which has sites holy to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – risked triggering a “diplomatic catastrophe”:

Responding to unconfirmed rumors that US President Barack Obama intends to visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during his trip to Israel next month, the Hamas terror group warned the American leader against the idea on Tuesday, calling it “a diplomatic catastrophe,”… A statement issued by Hamas called Obama’s potential visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located at the southern perimeter of the Mount, “an imminent danger which the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem have never faced.”

Obama’s trip to Israel, which will come as the highlight of a series of back-and-forth trips between high-ranking Israeli and American officials, will see the president receive Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction. Obama will the first sitting U.S. president to receive the medal, which is Israel’s highest civilian award.

[Photo: Noam Moskovich / The Israel Project / Flickr]