"There are 24 Israeli extremist groups that are planning to attack and destroy al-Aqsa Mosque," Muhammad Subaih, Palestinian delegate at the Arab League, said on Monday in the opening speech of a four-day conference in Cairo. 

Subaih accused Israel of preparing public opinion for a strike on al-Aqsa Mosque through warnings that hardline groups were plotting to target the mosque. 

Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered by Muslims to be the third holiest site in Islam - after al-Kaaba in Makka and Prophet Muhammad's Mosque in Madina.

Israeli media reported on Sunday that authorities fear Jewish 
hardliners could be planning an air attack on Jerusalem's disputed mosque compound in an attempt to derail government plans to uproot settlers from the Gaza Strip.

Geneva Convention

Subaih said Israel has, as the occupying power, a responsibility to protect al-Aqsa Mosque. He also called on Washington to intervene and help prevent the destruction of the mosque.

Abd Al-Latif Mamluk, Lebanon's representative at the Arab
League, urged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to force Israel to implement the statutes of the Geneva Convention on the protection of territories under occupation.

Known as the Temple Mount by Jews and al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims, the compound housing al-Aqsa Mosque also shelters the Dome of the Rock (Umar Mosque) and the Western Wall, the holiest site for Jews. 

The conference in Cairo, called to discuss a number of issues
related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, gathered delegates from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Authority.