Palestinian Authority security personnel used force to prevent two prominent Hamas figures from delivering sermons during Friday prayers, triggering clashes with worshipers.

The violence erupted after dozens of PA policemen raided two mosques in the Hebron area where Hamas legislators Nayef Rajoub and Muhammad Abu Jhaisheh were supposed to deliver the Friday khutba (sermon).

The clashes prompted the PA to close down the mosques, forcing enraged worshipers to search for alternative prayer sites.

Rajoub, who was minister for Wakf affairs in the Hamas-led unity government with Fatah more than three years ago, said that policemen in plain clothes approached him soon after he entered a mosque in his home village of Dura and warned him not to deliver the sermon.

“When I asked them for a written order, they assaulted me,” he said. “When some of the people inside the mosque tried to intervene, the policemen also beat them, and arrested some of them.”

Rajoub, who was released from an Israeli prison on June 20 after serving a 50-month sentence, accused the PA of waging a “war against mosques and Islam in collusion with Israel.”

Rajoub said that he has been serving as a preacher for nearly 30 years. He added that despite the ban, he would continue to lead Friday prayers and deliver sermons.

“Jewish settlers are torching mosques, the Israeli army is demolishing mosques and the Palestinian Authority is expelling preachers,” he said.

Nayef Rajoub is the brother of Jibril Rajoub, a former PA security commander and one of the prominent leaders of Fatah in the West Bank, who was one of the first to conduct security coordination with Israel. The former security commander is known for his ruthless crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank.

The second incident took place in the village of Idna, also in the Hebron area.

Eyewitnesses said that Palestinian security agents stopped Abu Jhaisheh shortly after he entered a mosque and demanded that he refrain from delivering the sermon.

Last week, Hamas accused the PA of “waging war on Islam and Allah” by arresting and firing hundreds of preachers and imams, closing down mosques and Islamic religious centers and imposing restrictions on religious figures suspected of being affiliated with Hamas.


Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the Fatah-dominated security forces in the West Bank, confirmed that his men had entered the mosques to prevent Rajoub and Abu Jhaisheh from addressing worshipers.

“These mosques don’t belong to Hamas,” he said, denying that the police had beaten anyone.

He also denied that the two mosques had been closed down.

Damiri said that the move against the mosques was taken in light of information suggesting that Hamas was preparing to export its “coup” to the West Bank.

“They are operating on instructions from [Hamas leader] Khaled Mashaal,” he said. “They want to create chaos that would start in the mosques. Their goal is to take over the West Bank.”

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