Israel has resolved to outlaw a domestic Islamist movement with ties to Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, according to a press release distributed early Tuesday morning by the Prime Minister's Office.
The government says that it has declared the northern branch of the Islamic Movement "an illegal organization."
"The practical significance of this decision is that any entity or individual belonging to the group from hereon out and any individual who grants this organization services or operates under its auspices will have violated a criminal statute and is subject to imprisonment," the government statement read.
The northern branch of the Islamic Movement is led by Sheikh Raed Salah, who has been convicted in court of numerous subversive activities, including funding Hamas, contacting an Iranian agent, assaulting a police officer, and leading a violent protest.
In recent months, Salah has been at the forefront of agitating against Israeli rule over Temple Mount. His rallies frequently invoke the mantra of "Al-Aksa is in danger."
The recent unrest between Israel and the Palestinians has been blamed on tensions surrounding the holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City, with the Israeli government issuing strenuous denials of claims that it is seeking to permit Jewish worship on Temple Mount.
"For years, the Islamic Movement's northern branch has been waging a campaign of deceitful incitement under the banner of 'al-Aksa is in danger,' which blames Israel by falsely accusing it of intending to harm the al-Aksa mosque and to violate the status quo there," the government statement read."
"As part of these efforts, the northern branch formed groups of activists (Murabitun and Murabatat) whose job was to ignite provocations on Temple Mount," the government said. "These activities led to a significant rise in tensions on Temple Mount. A significant portion of the attacks that have been carried out recently were committed against the backdrop of this incitement and propaganda."
This past September, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed a decree banning the Murabitun and Murabatat Islamist activist groups, which gather on the Temple Mount to disturb and intimidate Jewish visitors to the holy site on a daily basis.
Ya’alon’s office states that the action is in line with a recommendation by the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency, and is in accordance with the position of the Israel Police. Ya’alon has become convinced that the step is necessary to protect national security and public order.
The activities of these male and female groups “form a central component in the creation of tension and violence on the Temple Mount in particular, and Jerusalem in general,” the defense minister’s office says. It describes the activists as engaging in “dangerous incitement” against tourists, visitors, and worshipers on the Temple Mount, which leads to violence that could endanger lives.
“The goal of the Murabitun and Murabatat is to undermine Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, change the reality and the existing arrangements, and harm freedom of worship. They are linked to – and are directed by – hostile Islamist organizations,” the defense minister’s office says.
The decree received approval from Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.
"The northern branch, which is headed by Sheikh Raed Salah, is the sister-movement of the Hamas terrorist organization," the statement read. "These organizations are secretly and actively cooperating with one another."
"The northern branch is a separatist, racist organization that doesn't recognize the State of Israel and its institutions, rejects its right to exist, and calls for the formation of an Islamic caliphate."
"The cabinet's decision was arrived at following a series of exhaustive consultations with all of the relevant legal and security officials with the aim of putting a stop to dangerous incitement at home and preventing the harming of innocent life," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
"The government under my leadership will continue to act wherever necessary against instances of incitement and terrorism while at the same time continuing to devote resources for the betterment of the lives of Israel's Arabs and Jews," the premier said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett also praised the cabinet decision.
In a statement on Tuesday, Bennett said, "From Paris To Jerusalem, there is one war on terror. The State of Israel moves from words to action: We are destroying terrorists' homes, cancelling residency statuses, and this morning we outlawed [the northern branch of] the Islamic Movement."
Bennett continued, "Israel leads the free world against radical Islam. We don't try to explain terrorism, and we don't talk with terrorists - we fight terror with a strong hand - and we will win."
According to a police statement, authorities began distributing cease and desist notices to 17 non-government organizations and charities with ties to the northern branch.
These notices were handed out to offices in areas with large Arab populations, including Umm el-Fahm, Jaffa, Nazareth, Kfar Kana, Tora'an, Beersheba, and Rahat.
Investigators also conducted searches and confiscated equipment in 13 of the 17 offices. Security forces left with computers, documents, and other material. The authorities also froze bank accounts which are alleged to have facilitated the activities of the movement, resulting in harm done to national security.
The raids were organized and executed by the police in coordination with the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).
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