Israel arrests imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque as Palestinians run out of patience with coronavirus closure

Israel arrests imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque as Palestinians run out of patience with coronavirus closure
Israeli forces have stormed the home of the imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site, as Palestinians tried to reach the mosque to perform Friday prayers.
2 min read
29 May, 2020
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri was summoned for interrogation by Israeli forces [Anadolu/Getty]
Israeli forces arrested the Imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Ekrima Sabri on Friday afternoon.

Sheikh Sabri's son Ammar Sabri told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that Israel soldiers stormed the family's property in Jerusalem's al-Suwwannah neighbourhood. 

Soldiers informed Sheikh Sabri that he was under arrest and told him to accompany them. 

Sheikh Sabri refused, telling the soldiers he would travel to the Qashla Israeli police station in West Jerusalem on his own.

The former Grand Mufti then headed to the station accompanied by his grandson Asim and his lawyer Hamza Qutina, his son said. 

In a brief statement to the media on his way to the station, Sheikh Sabri said that Israeli incursions into the homes of Palestinians will not stop.
Israel banned Sheikh Sabri from praying in Al-Aqsa mosque compound in January. 

Local sources told The New Arab they expect Israeli forces to carry out more arrests of activists and community figures before the Al-Aqsa Mosque reopens on Sunday after a two-month closure due to the novel coronavirus.

Scuffles have previously broken out between Israeli police and Palestinians around the mosque and on Friday, worshippers tried to pray close to the mosque and to break through barriers to enter the compound.

Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest place in Islam and a key Palestinian national symbol. It is also close to The Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site. Some Israeli extremists wish to re-build a biblical temple which they say existed in ancient times on the current site of the mosque.

Muslim worshippers' access to al-Aqsa and the adjoining Dome of the Rock is controlled by Israeli security forces.

Israel gained control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque when it occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel later annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

Agencies contributed to this report

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