In the past, senior PA officials who visited al-Aqsa Mosque were also attacked by protesters who accused them of being “traitors” for their alleged readiness to make peace with Israel and for the ongoing security coordination between the Palestinian security forces and the IDF in the West Bank. Writes Khaled Abu Toameh
In an unprecedented move, Muslim worshipers on Friday expelled Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Mohammed Hussein from al-Aqsa Mosque and prevented him from completing his sermon.
The protesters shouted slogans in support of Hamas and denounced Hussein for his affiliation with the Palestinian Authority.
Hussein is considered the most senior representative of the PA at al-Aqsa Mosque compound. A resident of east Jerusalem who holds an Israeli-issued ID card, Hussein often appears next to PA President Mahmoud Abbas at public events.
The protesters accused Hussein of “ignoring” Hamas and the Gaza Strip and forced him to stop his sermon.
“We are the men of Mohammed Deif,” hundreds of angry worshipers shouted as bodyguards whisked the mufti away from the mosque.
Deif is the supreme commander of Hamas’s military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Other worshipers shouted: “Go away, go away, we don’t want to see the dogs of the Palestinian Authority.”
The incident came shortly after tens of thousands of Palestinians celebrated at al-Aqsa Mosque compound what they called Hamas’s “victory” against Israel during the last round of fighting.
At the end of the celebration, dozens of youths threw rocks and petrol bombs at police officers, who entered the compound and responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.
Palestinian medics said at least 20 people were injured during the clashes.
The assault on the mufti of Jerusalem came after weeks of pro-Hamas rallies at al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
During the rallies, which began at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan and spread to other parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank, thousands of worshippers chanted slogans in support of Hamas and called on the Gaza-based terrorist group to fire rockets at Israel.
In some instances, they also chanted slogans accusing the 85-year-old Abbas of being a US “agent” and an Israeli “collaborator.”
On the last Friday of Ramadan, thousands of worshippers raised Hamas flags and placed posters of the group’s leaders in many areas of the compound. Posters of Hamas leaders Deif, Ismail Haniyeh, Khaled Mashaal, Yahya Sinwar have also appeared on the walls of several neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
Some activists belonging to Abbas’s Fatah faction who tried to remove the Hamas flags and posters were beaten by Hamas supporters.
The pro-Hamas rallies are seen by Palestinians as a sign of the erosion of the influence of the PA and Jordan over the Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount.
The Islamic Waqf Department, which is in charge of administering the site, belongs to the Jordanian government. But the PA and other parties, including the Islamic Movement in Israel and Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) also have their representatives at the site.
In the past, senior PA officials who visited al-Aqsa Mosque were also attacked by protesters who accused them of being “traitors” for their alleged readiness to make peace with Israel and for the ongoing security coordination between the Palestinian security forces and the IDF in the West Bank.
PA officials condemned the attack on Hussein and praised him for his “defense” of the mosque against Israeli “aggression.” The officials pointed out that the mufti had played a major role in the 2017 protests that reportedly forced Israeli authorities to remove the metal detector gates they installed at one of the entrances to the compound.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that the attack on the mufti was an “assault on the holy sites and national unity.”
Mahmoud al-Habbash, religious affairs adviser to Abbas, denounced the assailants as “mercenaries working to serve the agenda of the occupation.”
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