Israeli security forces released Jerusalem’s top Islamic cleric from custody, previously detaining him briefly for questioning following a deadly terror attack in which three Arab-Israelis killed two Israeli police officers on Friday.
In a brief telephone conversation, the grand mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein told AFP he had been released, but provided no other details.
His son said he was released without charge after being questioned over his call for Muslims to come to Jerusalem following the closure of the Temple Mount to worshipers in the wake of the attack.
In a speech in the Old City, the cleric had condemned the closure, which Israel said was done for security reasons, including to search for weapons.
Hussein called on Muslim masses to flood to the holy site, and condemned what he called Friday’s Israeli “aggression” there, Army Radio reported — a presumed reference to the closure of the site and/or to Israeli forces’ shooting of the assailants.
Muslim worshippers performed prayers in the streets after police sealed the area. Friday noon prayers mark the highlight of the Muslim religious week. Tens of thousands typically pray at the Temple Mount, which houses the third-holiest site in Islam — the Al-Aqsa Mosque — as well as the Dome of the Rock sanctuary. It is Judaism’s holiest site, venerated as the location of the destroyed first and second temples.
Police closed the site Friday, after the three Israeli-Arab assailants opened fire from there, killing the two policemen and injuring a third. With the mosque off limits, the faithful lined up near Damascus Gate and other entrances to the Old City.
Hussein was delivering his Friday sermon outside the Old City’s Lions’ Gate when he was detained, reported Kann News (the new Israel Broadcast Authority).
— כאן ועכשיו (@kann_news) July 14, 2017
A picture posted by the network showed Hussein surrounded by Border Police officers.
According to Army Radio, Hussein in his sermon called on Arabs and Palestinians to gather en masse for the sake of Jerusalem, and against the closure of the compound.
Hussein had earlier condemned the closure of the site following the attack, saying it was an “excuse.”
“I have very little information about [the attack], but it doesn’t mean you should close the mosque for prayers,” he told journalists at the Lions Gate entrance.
Police also detained Sheikh Akrama Sabari, the previous mufti of Jerusalem, earlier Friday.
According to a tweet by journalist Nasser Atta, Sabari called on all Muslims to “liberate” Jerusalem and Palestine in his Friday sermon.
— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) July 14, 2017
Sabari is known for his vitriolic attacks against Israel and Judaism. He has in the past said Muslims will oust the “temporary” residents of Jerusalem, in reference to Jews.