israel arrests muslim cleric at al aqsa

Israel arrests Muslim cleric at Al-Aqsa

Middle East

AMMAN, Jordan: A senior Muslim cleric in the Old City of Jerusalem was detained for seven hours by Israeli police on Sunday amid rising tension at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab, 75, the Jordanian-appointed head of the Islamic Waqf Council, which administers the Muslim holy sites in the city, was arrested at dawn at his home in occupied East Jerusalem.

He was released around noon on condition that he stay away from the compound for a week. Sources in Jerusalem said the cleric had signed no such pledge.

Israeli authorities accused Salhab of breaking a 2003 ban on using the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer area. On Friday, he reopened the gate leading into the area, and hundreds of Muslims went inside to pray for the first time in years.

Scuffles broke out with Israeli police, who arrested 60 Palestinians for “causing disturbances” and “inciting violence.”

Jordan’s Minister of Islamic affairs, Abdul Nasser Abul Basal, said the Israeli action was “dangerous and an unacceptable escalation” that affected Jordan’s role as the custodian of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. Israel was “playing with fire,” he said.

Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group who focuses on Jerusalem, told Arab News the decision to arrest Salhab was probably made by a low-level official and did not necessarily represent the Israeli government position. 

“It is true that Palestinians in Jerusalem felt a sense of collective humiliation, but government officials insist they are trying to resolve this issue,” he said.

Zalzberg pointed out that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu had barred right-wing Knesset member Yehuda Glick from the mosque last week “because they are aware of the gravity of the crisis.”

Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab was arrested at dawn at his home in occupied East Jerusalem