Jerusalem: Senior Hamas leader arrested in al Aqsa
Dozens of right-wing Israeli militants were arrested as police tried to prevent a rally at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque compound as hundreds of Muslims staged their own counter-demonstration Sunday.
A prominent political leader of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has joined thousands of Muslim demonstrators in al-Aqsa mosque compound despite a ban by Israeli authorities, witnesses said. After banning the protest at the compound, Israeli authorities also restricted access to only Muslim Arab Israelis and Palestinian Muslims from east Jerusalem aged over 40. Thus, Shaikh Hasan Yusuf, who was recently released from Israeli prison, was not entitled to enter occupied east Jerusalem on Sunday. Yusuf was later arrested by Israeli police.
"Around 15,000 Palestinian worshippers have prayed the dawn prayer here," Yusuf told Aljazeera on Sunday. He said 3000 had spent the night there.
"We call on Arab and Islamic nations and all people to immediately move to save the blessed al-Aqsa mosque," he said. "This is our soul, and a body can never live without a soul." Yusuf said the gathering would continue indefinitely.
At least 10 Jewish militants were arrested in Jerusalem itself while around 25 were also detained in Tel Aviv as they blocked the main highway to Jerusalem with burning tires.
Meanwhile, an estimated 3,000 police were deployed in the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday, for fear of threatened protests by extreme Israeli rightists on the Temple Mount.
Among those arrested in Jerusalem was Israel Cohen, head of the ultra-nationalist Revava group which called for mass prayers at the site to denounce the planned withdrawal this summer of the 8,000 Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip.
The protest was timed to coincide with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's departure to the United States for a summit with President Bush which is set to be dominated by the Gaza "pullout."
Revava had called the demonstration at the site to bring some "10,000 Jews to the heavily restricted Temple Mount to spark Israeli dialogue about reclaiming the holy site from its Muslim custodians."
The mosque compound, which is called Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) by Muslims, shelters the Dome of the Rock (Omar Mosque) and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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