Israel arrests former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Ikrima Sabri

Relatives of Sheikh Ikrima Sabri say Israeli forces did not give a reason why he was taken into custody.

The former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Ikrima Sabri speaks during a news conference on Israeli archeological excavation under Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound [File: Menahem Kahana/AFP]

Israeli forces have arrested Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, from his house in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli police and intelligence teams surrounded the house on Wednesday and asked Sheikh Sabri, who is also a preacher at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, to accompany them, a relative told Anadolu news agency, asking not to be named for security reasons.

“The Israelis did not give any reason for his arrest,” he said.

Sheikh Sabri’s house is in the al-Suwana area that overlooks East Jerusalem’s Old City.

Israeli authorities have arrested the preacher multiple times in the past. In January, he was banned from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for several months.

Sheikh Sabri recently pointed out the compound had witnessed a noticeable escalation in raids by right-wing religious Jewish groups.

On Wednesday, dozens of Israeli settlers escorted by police officers forced their way into the compound, the Islamic Endowments Authority said.

“Around 66 settlers stormed the complex this morning,” the authority said, adding Rabbi Yehuda Glick, famous for his calls to intensify settler incursions on the site, was among the intruders.

Since 2003, Israel has allowed settlers into the flashpoint compound almost on a daily basis with the exception of Fridays and Saturdays.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the world’s third-holiest site for Muslims. Jewish people call the area the Temple Mount, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognised by the international community.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies