Israel has banned a group of Muslim activists known for campaigning for Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, accusing them of "incitement and propaganda." A government statement issued Tuesday said the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, based within Israeli territory and led by the now-imprisoned activist Raed Salah, was banned after a decision by the Israeli security cabinet. The organization's daily protests at Al-Aqsa, Islam's third holiest site, against perceived threats to the mosque from Israel, have irked the government, leading to dozens of its activists being blacklisted from entering the mosque and its leader Salah being sentenced to prison for "inciting violence." "This [Islamic Movement] activity has led to a significant increase in tension on the Temple Mount. A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks have been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda," said the statement, referring to violence that has killed 88 Palestinians and 13 Israelis since October. "Any person who gives it service, or who acts on its behalf, will be committing a criminal offense and is subject to imprisonment. It will also be possible to seize all property belonging to the organization."
After the decision, Israeli forces searched more than a dozen of the group's offices around the country, seizing computers, files and funds, police said. Authorities also froze its bank accounts and said that 17 organizations affiliated with the party were served with orders to close down. Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan linked the decision to the attacks in Paris, saying in a statement that "Israel must act as an example and spearhead the struggle against radical Islam whose emissaries we saw massacring innocent people in Paris" and elsewhere. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "the goal is to stop the dangerous incitement at home and prevent harm to innocent life."
The ban sparked outrage among Arab leaders and lawmakers who condemned the move. Mohammed Barakeh, the head of an umbrella group of Arab Israeli political parties and community leaders, called the decision "an unjustified draconian step." The umbrella organization was set to hold an emergency meeting about the ban. The Jerusalem hilltop compound, holy to both Jews and Muslims, houses the Al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam. It is the holiest site in Judaism and was home to the biblical Jewish Temples. Salah has alleged in speeches and annual rallies under the heading "Al-Aqsa is in Danger" that Israel plans to expand its control there. Since 2001, the Islamic Movement has bused tens of thousands of supporters to the mosque compound every year to strengthen the Muslim presence.
The current round of violence erupted in mid-September over rumors that Israel was trying to expand Jewish presence at the Jerusalem shrine and spread to the West Bank, Israeli cities and the Gaza border. Palestinian attacks, mainly stabbings, have killed 14 Israelis, and at least 83 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 51 Israel says were involved in assaults. The rest were killed in clashes with security forces.