Israeli forces detain top Palestinian cleric

Updated: 2013-05-08 16:54


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JERUSALEM - Israeli police detained on Wednesday the Palestinians' top Muslim religious leader from his Jerusalem home, a day after a scuffle between Palestinians and Israelis outside the city's main al-Aqsa mosque.

Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, serves under the Palestinian Authority which exercises limited rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as well as neighbouring Jordan, long a custodian over Jerusalem's Muslim holy places.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Hussein was detained to answer questions about his connection to a "public disturbance" on Tuesday at a compound that houses al-Aqsa mosque and overlooks Judaism's Western Wall.

The incident began, Rosenfeld said, when Israeli police detained an Arab who wanted to enter the plaza but refused to present his identification card.

It developed into a scuffle in which Muslim worshippers threw chairs at Jewish visitors at the site, he added.

The violence coincided with Israel's celebration of "Jerusalem Day", when it marks the anniversary of its capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinians regard visits by Israeli worshippers to the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, as a provocation.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the war and considers all of the city its capital, a claim that has not won international recognition. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of the independent state they seek in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.