Israel Charges Jerusalem Religious Leader With Incitement Over Al-Aqsa Sermon

Sheikh Ismat Hammouri called on worshippers to liberate Al-Aqsa 'by arms and force'. His lawyer called the charge a 'political arrest intended to scare people away'

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
Sheikh Ismat Hammouri in court in Jerusalem, on Monday.
Sheikh Ismat Hammouri in court in Jerusalem, on Monday.Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

A 56-year-old Muslim leader from Jerusalem was charged with incitement Monday over a sermon he delivered last month on the Temple Mount, in which he called on a crowd of some 200 worshippers to liberate Al-Aqsa Mosque “by arms and force.”

According to the indictment, which was filed with the approval of Attorney General Gali Baharv-Miara, Sheikh Ismat Hammouri told the crowd: “There’s no other way but uniting the nations of Islam and acting decisively to liberate Al-Aqsa Mosque… The good shall return to Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

During the sermon, which lasted about 10 minutes, some worshippers chanted in support of Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’ military wing.

Hammouri was arrested early last week. His lawyer, Attorney Rami Othman, called it a “political arrest intended to scare people away from Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

In a separate case, authorities arrested this week the imam of the Great Mosque in Lod, Sheikh Yusuf Albaz, who is suspected of incitement and identifying with acts of terror.

The arrest followed a speech Albaz delivered last week at a conference in his city, in which he expressed anger at Israel for interfering at Al-Aqsa Mosque and criticized the security forces’ use of weapons and stun grenades at the site.

Attorney Khaled Azbarga, who is representing Albaz, called the detention persecution. “We have a strong suspicion that behind this investigation lie extraneous and political considerations… This is a case of freedom of expression.”

During the month of Ramadan, the mosque area has been the scene of clashes between Muslim worshipers and Israeli security forces after a minority of worshipers threw stones and set off fireworks.

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