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Israel-Palestine war: Al-Aqsa imam among Palestinians on far-right Telegram hit list

'Nazi Hunters' channel calls for Sheikh Ekrima Sabri to be killed, and names and locates dozens of others in Israel, West Bank and East Jerusalem
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri has delivered Friday sermons at Al-Aqsa Mosque since the early 1970s (AFP)
By Lubna Masarwa in Jerusalem and Simon Hooper in London

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the imam of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, is among dozens of Palestinians whose names and locations have been posted in a far-right Israeli Telegram channel calling for them to be killed, Middle East Eye has discovered.

The channel, called Nazi Hunters 2023, describes those targeted – often accompanied by photos with crosshairs over their faces - as “Nazis who are walking around freely and have not yet been eliminated”.

Khaled Zabarqa, head of Sabri's legal team, told MEE that Sabri was aware of the threat against him, which he said was being incited by "extremist Jewish factions, supported by elements within the Israeli government".

Sabri had contacted the Kingdom of Jordan, the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and Arab consulates in Jerusalem to update them about the severity of the situation, Zabarqa said.

"This incitement is both transparent and dangerous. For nearly a year Sheikh Ekrima has faced continuous provocation, with these Jewish extremist groups directly inciting his assassination," he said.

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Others identified in the Telegram channel include religious leaders, political figures, journalists, public officials, and student activists, as well as alleged members of Hamas and Palestinian fighters.

MEE is not identifying those named with the exception of Sabri because of concerns for their safety.

The Hebrew language channel was set up on Monday as the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza escalated, following the deadly attack by Palestinian fighters in southern Israel on Saturday. It currently has more than 3,500 followers.

It calls for law enforcement agencies to arrest and interrogate those it names and for them to be brought to justice. But it adds: “Do not spare or feel sorry for them. Nazis are not pitied.”

And it urges users to share the link to the channel so that others can join: “If you share a lot maybe it will reach the Nazis themselves and they will kill themselves out of fear.”

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Many of those named are women, including a number involved in administrative affairs at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Some on the list have been convicted by Israel for offences such as throwing stones at Israeli settlers.

Sabri, 85, is the former chief mufti of Jerusalem, the head of the Supreme Islamic Council and one of the main imams at Al-Aqsa. He has delivered Friday sermons there since the early 1970s and has been arrested several times by Israeli forces.

He is described on the channel as “a partner along with the leaders of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah in the plan to annihilate the State of Israel”, and “the main Nazi in Jerusalem”.

The channel gives GPS coordinates for Sabri’s home and calls for it to be attacked.

“Sabri is one of the most important targets for elimination,” it says.

The Nazi Hunters 2023 Telegram channel calls for prominent Palestinians to be eliminated (Screengrab) 

Zabarqa told MEE that groups calling for the deaths of prominent Palestinians enjoyed growing influence in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and the Israeli security establishment.

"Alarmingly, the current phase has transitioned to overt incitement for assassination, marking a dangerous turn targeting influential figures on the Palestinian stage, the Islamic world, and globally," he said.

"We lack protection. Israeli law enforcement doesn't offer any safety to us or our Palestinian leaders."

The channel also calls for attacks against specific locations including mosques, universities and businesses. On Tuesday it posted the coordinates of a mosque in the West Bank city of Nablus and called for it to be bombed.

Israeli settlers frequently attack villages near Nablus. On Thursday, settlers killed a Palestinian man and his son in the town of Qusra, south of the city, as they were attending the funeral of four men killed by settlers the previous day.

Many Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem are increasingly concerned by the growing threat from far-right groups fuelled by Israeli leaders’ incendiary rhetoric ahead of an expected ground assault in Gaza.

At least 1,800 people have been killed in Gaza by Israeli air strikes. In Israel, at least 1,300 people were killed during Palestinian fighters' assault on Saturday.

The channel is one among a number of channels on Telegram and other messaging services identified by Middle East Eye which currently appear to be inciting violence against Palestinians.

MEE contacted Telegram for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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