JERUSALEM, (AFP) – Security forces raided the offices of the Islamic Movement in the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm early on Sunday and accused it of aiding the Palestinian Hamas movement, police said.
Dozens of police and internal intelligence agents took part in the raid on the offices of the Al-Aqsa institution, which is operated by the Israeli Arab Islamist party, a police official said.
Officers confiscated documents, computers, and a safe with hundreds of thousands of shekels (dollars) in the operation which was ordered by the defence ministry, the official added.
Israeli security forces accuse the office of funneling funds to the Hadawa organisation in east Jerusalem, which is operated by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement which seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
The Islamic Movement condemned the operation in a statement, saying that the “Israeli establishment went bankrupt, having no answer to the solid and strong information on the Al-Aqsa institution’s activities in regards to the damage caused to the holy sites in general and to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular.”
The Al-Aqsa institution claims to defend the mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City — considered the third holiest site in Islam — from nearby construction projects and other actions it views as threats to the site.
Tens of thousands of people attended an Islamic Movement rally on Friday in which it warned of the dangers posed to the monument, which is built on Judaism’s holiest site and has been a major regional flashpoint.
In its statement the movement accused Israel of choosing “to use the stick method instead of talking and convincing.”
Founded in 1970, the movement has two MPs in the Israeli parliament. It includes a more radical wing led by the firebrand cleric Sheikh Raed Salah and a moderate wing led by its founder, Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish.
In August 2007 Salah was indicted for “inciting racism and violence” for calling for a “third Intifada,” or uprising, to defend the mosque.
The Israeli Arab community numbers 1.2 million and accounts for 20 percent of Israel’s population. It includes the descendants of the 160,000 Palestinians who were not expelled or did not flee what is now Israel during the 1948 war.