Israel arrests Jerusalem Waqf deputy

AMMAN: Israeli police arrested the deputy director of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf Council and confiscated his computer on Wednesday.

The council, which was meeting at the time of the arrest, issued a strongly worded statement “denouncing” the arrest of Sheikh Najeh Bakirat. The council also labeled the Israeli actions “unprecedented and dangerous.”

The arrest reportedly involved a “large number of security forces” and “several members of the Israeli intelligence services.”

Bakirat is the head of the sharia education program and deputy to Director-General of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem, Sheikh Azzam Al-Khateeb.

Israeli police made the arrest following a court order, but Sheikh Azzam, who came late to the meeting, said that he had no idea what was behind the arrest.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the Jerusalem Waqf Council, told Arab News that arrest added to escalating tensions. “They are pouring oil on the fire and escalating an already tense situation,” he said.

Assali said that in addition to the arrest of Bakirat, some staffers were detained. “They picked up Sheikh Samira, a technical creative person in charge of the golden decorations in Al-Aqsa,” he said.

The Waqf Council statement said the arrest was “hostile” and an unprecedented development. The council called for the immediate release of Bakirat and the return of all confiscated equipment belonging to waqf authorities.

Jordanian officials told Arab News that the arrest was unacceptable. “We need to make sure that Israel understands that its hostile actions, specifically in Al-Aqsa, are not acceptable to anyone,” an anonymous source said.

Some analysts claim that Israeli police leadership has become more hardline as a result of new appointments. Jerusalem residents have also voiced concerns over a marked increase in the number of policemen stationed at the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Arab News that he “was not aware of the incident.”

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