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Israel fears revival of northern branch of Islamic Movement

Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel speaks to the crowd as he arrives in a prison in Haifa [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel speaks to the crowd as he arrives in a prison in Haifa, 17 August 2020 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli security officials have voiced their fear of the revival of the northern branch of the country's Islamic Movement led by imprisoned Sheikh Raed Salah. The movement was banned by the occupation state six years ago.

According to Quds Press, local media have reported that the leaders of the southern branch of the movement, who are part of the Israeli government coalition, have recently expressed their sympathy with the northern branch. This followed the solidarity protests in support of Jerusalem's threatened neighbourhoods, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Gaza Strip in May. Several leaders of the northern branch were detained at the time, including the Deputy Chief of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Kamal Al-Khatib.

Israel Hayom cited the visit of Mansour Abbas, the head of the southern branch, to a protest tent organised by the northern branch against the detention of Sheikh Al-Khatib as evidence of the rapprochement between the two branches.

The newspaper also cited a social media post by Sheikh Mohammad Salameh Hassan of the southern branch. "All the Palestinians are united from the river to the sea until the removal of the occupation," he said.

According to the newspaper, the difference between the two branches is their different approach to participation in Knesset elections. The southern branch agreed in 1996 while the northern branch rejects such participation.

Israel: Palestinian party condemns extension of sheikh's detention

The Islamic Movement in Israel was established in 1971 by the late Sheikh Abdullah Nimer Darwish. It has built dozens of mosques, cultural centres, social centres and charities across Israel.

The movement won municipal elections in several cities and villages in Israel in 1989 when it participated for the first time under the slogan "Islam is the solution". However, the movement was divided when the southern part agreed to take part in the Knesset elections in 1996.

On 17 November 2015, it was banned by the Israeli government on the pretext that it does not recognise state institutions and denies Israel's right to exist. The Israeli cabinet considered it to be a terrorist group and accused it of being part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of its leaders, first and foremost Sheikh Raed Salah, are in prison.

Critics insist that Sheikh Salah and others from the Islamic Movement detained due to their activism in support of Al Aqsa Mosque, as well as their efforts to expose Israeli violations and aggression against the Palestinians.

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