Israel releases Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs

Hours-long detention came after Fadi al-Hadami joined Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on tour of Al-Aqsa compound.

A source told AFP that the arrest of the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs was likely related to the Chilean President's visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque complex on Tuesday [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Israeli forces have released the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs after detaining him for several hours.

Police in the early hours of Sunday arrested Fadi al-Hadami at his home in occupied East Jerusalem without explaining why he was being held. Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told AFP news agency that al-Hadami was detained for “activities in Jerusalem”.

After his release later on Sunday, al-Hadami’s lawyer was quoted as saying by Palestinian news agency Wafa that the arrest was in relation to his client accompanying visiting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera during a visit to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound a few days ago.

Earlier in the day, Palestinian media had reported that five other Palestinian men had also been arrested in areas across Jerusalem, Bethlehem and south of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

The detainees identified by Palestinian media included Haydar and Alaa Dirbas who were arrested at the Maqasid Hospital in East Jerusalem, and Ihab Saeed who was arrested from his village near Jerusalem. 

The Israeli authorities did not comment on why the men were arrested.

Hadami meets Chile’s president 

On Tuesday, al-Hadami was seen alongside Pinera on a tour of the flashpoint holy site, enraging Israel, which said it constituted a violation of regulations and a breach of understandings reached with Santiago for the head of state’s visit.

Commenting on the visit, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement on Wednesday that the government “takes seriously any infringement of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, especially one that violates an agreed-upon procedure.

“We must distinguish between absolute freedom of worship that Israel safeguards [and] ensuring that our sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not harmed,” he added.

Israeli media reported that the ministry received a formal letter from the Chilean Embassy later that day, explaining that Pinera’s visit to the Al-Aqsa compound had been a private one.

The status of Al-Aqsa, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is one of the most sensitive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   

It is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. It is administered by the Muslim Waqf but secured by Israeli police.  

Jerusalem protests
The Israeli shooting of a Palestinian demonstrator on Thursday sparked days of unrest in a number of neighbourhoods in and around Jerusalem [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Anadolu]

Days of unrest  

The arrests follow days of unrest in Jerusalem after Israeli police shot and killed a 20-year-old Palestinian on Thursday, in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya.

The young man, identified as Mohammed Obeid, died of his wounds, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Israeli authorities said they shot Obeid after he allegedly threw fireworks at them.    

The incident sparked protests. Overnight on Saturday, Israeli police “continued dealing with riots and disturbances in a number of neighbourhoods when stones were thrown at officers and fireworks fired at them,” Rosenfeld said in a statement.    

Two officers were wounded and six suspects arrested, he added.    

Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 War. It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community. 

Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies