Grand Mufti of Jerusalem warns of regional religious war after Hebron unrest

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The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Sunni cleric who is in charge of Al-Aqsa Mosque, expressed his belief on Sunday that the “escalation of attacks” by Israel and Jewish settlers on Muslim holy sites threatens “to lead to the region in a religious war”. ”

The statement by Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, who has served as grand mufti since his appointment by the Palestinian Authority in 2006, follows a tumultuous weekend in Hebron that saw an unknown number of Jews attack IDF military personnel and provoke clashes with local Palestinians. .

Hussein pointed out that the windows of the Bab al-Zawiya and al-Sadiq mosques in Hebron were smashed over the weekend, following vandalism by “extremist Jewish settler militias”, according to the grand mufti. He alleged that the Israeli army was fully aware of the attacks and did nothing to stop them.

Hussein said the vandalism at the two mosques “violated both divine and civil law as well as international standards, which enshrined the freedoms of religion and worship.”

The Israel Police said that “upon receipt of the complaint [about the shattered windows] an investigation was opened with the aim of locating those suspected of being involved in the act.

Over the weekend, police arrested 6 Israelis for alleged acts of violence against Palestinian military and civilians in Hebron. The six were released on Sunday, and it was unclear whether they remained suspects.

Footage from the weekend, including a video of a man dressed in Jewish religious attire as he punches a Palestinian, sparked outrage in Israel.

Giora Eiland, a retired general and former government national security adviser, compared the attacks on Palestinians and troops at Kristallnacht to the Nazi-led pogroms against Jews in Germany in 1938.

“Dozens launched attacks on Palestinian shops, causing damage, and rioted without any provocation, also injuring Palestinians,” Eiland told Channel 12. we were on the other side,” he added.

Grand Mufti Hussein, for his part, condemned what he called “the Jewish seizure of the al-Ibrahimi mosque”, using the Muslim name for the holy site known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Jews and Muslims believe that the biblical matriarchs and patriarchs are buried here in Hebron (with the exception of Rachel, whose tomb is outside Bethlehem).

A flashpoint of the Jewish-Muslim conflict and a place of worship for both faiths, the Tomb of the Patriarchs/al-Ibrahimi Mosque is the subject of special arrangements to ease tensions, including the division of the complex into spaces reserved for Jews and Muslims.

Under these arrangements, the Jewish and Muslim communities can each choose 10 particularly important holy days in the year during which they enjoy exclusive usage rights to the complex and can thus access areas normally reserved for members of the other religion.

Last weekend, the Jewish community had exclusive rights to the complex, to celebrate the reading of the Chayei Sarah Torah portion, which tells the story of Abraham’s acquisition of the site and the burial of his wife Sarah. .

Last month, when the Jewish community was given full access to the religious site for high holy days, videos of Jews dancing in parts of the compound normally reserved for Muslims infuriated many Palestinians, as evidenced by a flurry of posts on social networks.

On this occasion, Grand Mufti Hussein condemned Israel for closing the site to Muslim worshippers.

Hussein is often seen as a moderate, though he gave his blessing in 2006 to the use of suicide bombings as a ‘resistance’ tactic and denied in 2015 that the Jewish temple ever rose to the top from the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

Hussein’s latest comments were not the first time he had warned of an impending religious war. In late March, he said in a Friday sermon that “a cruel religious war looms on the horizon.”

Less than a month later, on April 15, clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount left some 160 Palestinians injured and around 400 arrested.

Yishai Fleisher, spokesman for Hebron’s Jewish community, blamed the unrest in Hebron last week on a few bad actors and thinks ‘it’s absurd’ for Hussein to believe a religious war will break out, especially if the events in Hebron last week form the basis of this prediction.

“The vast majority of the Sabbath passed without incident,” Fleisher said. “There were about four Jews who were arrested for disorderly behavior among 40,000 visitors and they were drunk. It was bad and inappropriate criminal behavior. None of them were from Hebron, or even settlers.

Fleisher thinks most people celebrated the Sabbath in Hebron over the weekend in the spirit of coexistence and respect for their fellow monotheists.

“At the end of the Torah portion, we learn how Isaac and Ishmael buried their common father, Abraham, together. That’s what it’s all about: a culture of the Abrahamic way shared by Muslims, Jews and Christians.

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