Israel bans Islamist group ‘for fuelling violence surge’

Sheik Raed Salah, the leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, gestures to supporters. Picture: AP
Sheik Raed Salah, the leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, gestures to supporters. Picture: AP
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Israel has outlawed an Islamist group accused of inciting violence among the country’s Arab citizens, accusing it of fuelling a deadly two-month escalation.

The move – Israel’s latest step aimed at stamping out the violent escalation – threatened to worsen already strained relations with the country’s Arab minority. Arab leaders condemned the decision.

We will continue to act against those who incite and encourage terrorism, wherever they are”

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU

The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement of Israel, which provides religious and educational services for Israeli Arabs, routinely accuses Israel of trying to take over a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, a charge Israel denies.

The site is at the heart of the latest surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The government announced yesterday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet had approved the measure. Israeli politicians have repeatedly called for the ban since the violence erupted in mid-September.

“We will continue to act against those who incite and who encourage terrorism, wherever they are,” Mr Netanyahu said.

After the decision, police closed 17 organisations affiliated with the party and searched more than a dozen of their offices, seizing computers, files and funds. Authorities also froze the group’s bank accounts and the government said activists could be subject to arrest if they violate the ban.

The group’s leader, radical cleric Raed Salah, said his party would fight the measure and continue its mission.

“All these measures done by the Israeli establishment are oppressive and condemned,” Mr Salah said, adding that he and two other party leaders were summoned to police questioning.

Mr Salah is set to start an 11-month jail term this month in connection with incitement charges stemming from a 2007 sermon in which he allegedly called for a new uprising against Israel.

In a statement, the government claimed the movement is affiliated with the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood organisation, which has ties to the Palestinian Islamic militant Hamas group and is committed to Israel’s destruction.