Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon announced Wednesday he has outlawed two Palestinian Muslim groups active at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. The Murabitat and Murabitun gather at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to demonstrate against what they see as increasing Israeli control over the holy site, above all visits by Israeli rightists under armed guard.
They tend to confront Jewish visitors with cries of “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)” as they see their presence as aimed at bringing an eventual change in the status of the site, where non-Muslim prayer is prohibited.
Yaalon’s office said he had been convinced by Israel’s internal security bodies that outlawing the Murabitat and Murabitun, a decision he reached on Tuesday, was necessary in order to “defend the security of the state, the well-being of the public and public order”.
The groups, it said, were “a main factor in creating the tension and violence” at the site, venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount, and in Jerusalem at large.
“They engage in inciteful and dangerous activity against tourists, visitors and worshipers at the site, which leads to violence,” Yaalon’s office said, and “strive to undermine Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount.”
“They are linked to — and frequently guided by — hostile Islamic organisations,” Yaalon’s office said.
Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Islamic Waqf which runs Al-Aqsa, slammed the decision as “totally unacceptable”.
“The occupation regime has no right to intervene in Al-Aqsa’s matters,” he said in a statement.
“Any Muslim who enters Al-Aqsa mosque and prays is a protector of the mosque. Nobody has a right to prevent a Muslim from entering their holy site and praying.”
Under the new legal conditions, anyone who organizes, finances or participates in the groups’ activities could face trial.
The third holiest site in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained an agreement with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa compound not to allow non-Muslim prayer in the area.
However, Israeli forces have regularly escorted Jewish visitors to the Al-Aqsa compound, leading to anger among Muslim worshipers.
Jewish prayer is allowed at the neighboring Western Wall, which is the last remnant of the Second Temple. MAAN