Israel bans Islamic Movement northern wing
Israel banned the northern wing of the Islamic Movement on Tuesday, accusing it of fomenting violence at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound that has escalated into weeks of deadly unrest.
"Any person who belongs to this organisation or who provides services to it or who acts within its framework is henceforth committing a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence," a government statement said.
The branch of the Islamic Movement, based largely in northern Israel, has been at the forefront of defending the mosque compound against what many Palestinians have said are increasing Israeli incursions at the location considered the third holiest site in Islam. Called Temple Mount by Jews, it is considered Judaism's holiest site.
Police and agents of the Shin Bet domestic security service raided offices of the movement and 17 associated organisations in Palestinian communities across Israel on Tuesday, police said.
They seized cash, documents and computers.
The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens called for a general strike next Thursday on 26 November.
In a press statement released on Tuesday, the Islamic Movement's leader Sheikh Raed Salah denounced Israel's decision to outlaw the group.
"Firstly, all these measures taken by the Israeli establishment are unjust and unacceptable," he said. "Secondly, the Islamic movement will continue to exist as a long-lasting mission and will prevail on its principles it was founded upon, namely Jerusalem and the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque."
The government accused the movement's northern branch of stoking a wave of violence across Israel and the Palestinian territories that has left 12 Israelis dead since 1 October and 82 on the Palestinian side.
Over several consecutive days in September, Israeli forces repeatedly stormed the compound while helping Jews to visit the location during holidays.
In 1967, after Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, Israel made an agreement with the Islamic Endowment, a religious body under Jordanian administration that is supposed to have control of the site, that non-Muslim prayer at the compound would be forbidden.
The Israeli government has repeatedly denied any plans to change the rules.
"The northern branch of the Islamic Movement has carried out a campaign of incitement to violence for years based on the lie that "The Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger" and the false accusation that Israel wants to harm the mosque and violate the status quo," the government statement said.
"These activities have provoked a significant rise in tensions at the Temple Mount."
For the past 20 years, the northern wing has held an annual conference under the slogan "Al-Aqsa is in danger", warning that Israel plan to destroy it to build a temple in its place.
Last month, Salah was sentenced to 11 months in jail on charges of inciting violence at the mosque compound in a 2007 speech.