ANKARA  – Palestinian resistance icon Sheikh Raed Salah warned Sunday against the dangers that surround Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem from plans by Israeli authorities.

Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was hosted in an online seminar by the Jerusalem Commission of the Ankara Civil Society Platform (ACSP) in Turkey shortly before he begins a 28-month prison sentence on Aug. 16.

He said the Israeli plans began with the occupation of the holy city in June 1967 when the first Israeli assault on the mosque was launched a few days after capturing the city with the destruction of the Mughrabi (Moroccan) quarter adjacent to the Al-Aqsa compound and then setting the mosque on fire in 1969.

He said Israeli assaults since then have continued on a regular basis and are characterized these days by Israeli settlers breaking into Al-Aqsa to perform Talmudic rituals inside Islam’s third holiest mosque.

Sheikh Salah said all political parties in Israel agree on maintaining Israeli control over Jerusalem, noting “there is a consensus on maintaining the occupation of the city in an attempt to isolate Al-Aqsa Mosque and then destroy it.”

Commenting on the role of the Palestinian people — especially in Jerusalem — to defend the mosque, he said Palestinians have stood with steadfastness against all Israeli attempts.

Sheikh Salah hailed efforts by Turkey and Malaysia at official and grassroots levels to defend and support Al-Aqsa.

He also stressed the importance of spreading knowledge among Muslims worldwide to keep them aware of what is going on in occupied Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Despite the endless Israeli attacks on Sheikh Salah, he has said on various occasions that he is determined to continue to defend Al-Aqsa.

“Whatever the cost will be, we won’t concede defending Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

In a move never recognized by the international community, it annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the Jewish state’s “eternal and undivided” capital.

On Nov. 24, 2019, a court charged Salah on several counts, including “incitement to terrorism” and “supporting a banned group,” referring to the Islamic Movement in Israel, which was outlawed by the Israeli government in 2015.

Although his sentence was originally set to start in March, it was postponed amid appeals by his defense.

Salah is under house arrest with tightened restrictions. He is banned from communicating with the public except with his close relatives.

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