Islamic Movement official: Israel ‘using chemicals’ to corrode Al-Aqsa Mosque

Sheikh Kamal Khatib claims clandestine effort has been going on for 22 years

Sheikh Kamal Khatib interviewed by Al-Jazeera, in a clip translated by MEMRI (Screen capture MEMRI)
Sheikh Kamal Khatib interviewed by Al-Jazeera, in a clip translated by MEMRI (Screen capture MEMRI)

The deputy leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel told an Al-Jazeera interviewer this week that Israel uses chemicals to clandestinely harm the infrastructure of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In the July 16 interview, transcribed by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Sheikh Kamal Khatib said that Israel has been injecting chemical substances into the walls of the mosque in order to cause its corrosion. He explained that the substances he claimed Israel was using have a delayed effect, enabling Israel to claim that the cracks and fissures in the mosque structure are naturally caused by the passage of time.

The clip can be viewed here.

“Twenty-two years ago, we said that the Aqsa Mosque was in danger. At the time, we said that throughout the excavations, the occupation used chemical substances that have a long-term effect. These substances could eat away at the rocks and pillars, but its effect would not show immediately, and afterwards they would be able to claim that the cracks in Al-Aqsa [walls],” said Khatib.

“It has happened. There are fissures and sinkholes in some places. [The Israelis’ plan was that] they would be able to claim that it was the working of nature. It seems… Actually, I shouldn’t say ‘seems'” he told the Qatari station.

The Temple Mount, with the black-domed Al-Aqsa Mosque in the foreground (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
The Temple Mount, with the black-domed Al-Aqsa Mosque in the foreground. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

When the interviewer asked whether Israel wanted to “execute this secret scheme” again recently, when the mosque was closed following the July 14 terror attack in which three Arab-Israelis shot dead two Israel police officers just outside the Temple Mount compound, Khatib said: “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I fear — I am almost convinced — that the goal of Israel in closing the mosque was not just to search for weapons, as the [Israelis] claimed. They know that there are no weapons inside the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The terrorists who perpetrated the attack last Friday — all from the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm — has smuggled the weapons used in the attack into the Temple Mount and stashed it at the site prior to the shooting.

Israel then briefly closed the compound to search for more weapons and installed new security measures at entrances to the Temple Mount, including metal detectors and cameras before reopening it on Sunday.

Daily protests have ensued in Jerusalem and in the West Bank against the new security measures.

The Temple Mount — known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock sanctuary. It is the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, and the holiest in Judaism, revered as the site of the two biblical Temple.

Under the status quo in place since Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank following the Six Day War in 1967, Israel is responsible for security at the site while a Jordanian trust — the Waqf — administers it.

Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site but are forbidden to pray there. It is a focal point for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

In 2015, Israel banned the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, citing incitement and support for terror actions, including on the Temple Mount.

The northern branch funds a group called the Mourabitun, whose protests against Jewish visitors at the Temple Mount have occasionally turned violent. In September 2015, Israel banned the group from the Mount.

The northern branch rejects the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians and boycotts national elections on the grounds that they give legitimacy to the institutions of the Jewish state.

Founded in the 1970s, it is a political organization, religious outreach group and social service provider rolled into one. The movement’s overarching goal is to make Israeli Muslims more religious and owes much of its popularity to providing services often lacking in Israel’s Arab communities. Today the group runs kindergartens, colleges, health clinics, mosques and even a sports league – sometimes under the same roof.

The movement split two decades ago. The more moderate southern branch began fielding candidates for Israel’s Knesset in 1996 and is now part of the Joint List, an alliance of several Arab-Israeli political parties. Three of the Joint List’s 13 current Knesset members are part of the movement.

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