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Israeli police question a top Palestinian cleric

May 08, 2013|By Maher Abukhater
  • A young man is arrested by Israeli border police following a protest against Israelis celebrating Jerusalem Day on Wednesday at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City.
A young man is arrested by Israeli border police following a protest against… (Menahem Kahana / Agence…)

JERUSALEM -- Israeli police on Wednesday detained and questioned a top Palestinian cleric about clashes that took place a day earlier in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Sheik Muhammad Hussein, also known as the mufti of Jerusalem, was released with no charges after six hours.

It was a rare arrest of a senior Palestinian religious figure and drew immediate condemnation from Palestinian Authority leaders. President Mahmoud Abbas described the arrest as “a blatant violation of freedom of worship” and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called it “a grave escalation.”

The Tuesday clashes occurred when Palestinians began protesting against a group of Jewish visitors to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount. Two police officers were injured and several Palestinians were arrested, Rosenfeld said.

Tensions in the city remained high Wednesday as Israeli Jews mark “Jerusalem Day” to commemorate their capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war. As part of the celebration, thousands of Israeli schoolchildren march throughout the streets, often through Arab neighborhoods.

To prevent confrontations, police told Arab shopkeepers in the Old City to shut down for the afternoon. Ten Palestinians were arrested during a demonstration against marchers in front of the Damascus Gate, Rosenfeld said.

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