By Ahmed Asmar
ANKARA (AA) – An Israeli court on Monday sentenced Sheikh Raed Salah, an iconic Palestinian defender of Al-Aqsa Mosque, to 28 months in prison, as part of a series of persecutions he has been subject to.
This was not the first attempt by the Israeli authorities to silence him for his brave and courageous defense of Al-Aqsa Mosque against the Israeli settlers’ attempts to Judaize the Muslims’ third holiest site.
A Palestinian resistance icon who is also known as “Sheikh of Al-Aqsa Mosque", or defender of Al-Aqsa Mosque, is one of the most prominent Palestinian figures, who gained a wide popularity in the Muslim world for his endless defense of the mosque as well as raising awareness on the Israeli measures taken against Jerusalem in general and worshipers there in particular.
Born in 1958, Sheikh Salah is a poet and father of eight children. He started his public work as mayor of Umm al-Fahm, an Arab city in Israel, where he also became leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.
As his activities expanded and his anti-occupation speeches were disseminated widely among the Palestinian minorities in Israel, he was subject to arrests by the Israeli authorities several times.
In 2003, he was arrested on suspicion of funding Hamas, while in 2005, he was banned from travel. In 2010, he was sentenced to five months in prison for allegedly assaulting Israeli police.
A strong defender for the Palestinian people, he has staged a number of protests against Israeli policy and campaigned against the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
– Defending Jerusalem
Under his famous slogan “Al-Aqsa is in danger”, he drew the attention to the Palestinian people and Muslim world on Israel’s rising number of violations of the sanctity of the holy site. He also countered the Israeli false narratives by publishing facts about the holy city and what is going on there.
He has been part of the efforts exerted to expose the Israeli procedures against the Christian and Muslim sites, especially the Israeli tunnels and excavation works under Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In summer 2017, he was also calling for defending Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Israeli authorities which decided to install cameras and electronic gates in front of the mosque's gates.
In August 2017, Salah was arrested at his home in the city of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel before being convicted on charges of “inciting violence.” He denied the charges.
In February 2018, the Israeli Central Court slapped the Palestinian resistance icon with six months of solitary confinement.
Exactly a year after, the Israeli Supreme Court sentenced Salah to three more months of house arrest, where he has served until now.
– Under Israeli threats
Sheikh Salah was also subject to the Israeli officials' incitement and threats.
Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan once tweeted that sentencing Shiekh Salah "illustrates that terror supporters and inciters belong in prison for a long time and not in the Knesset [Israel's parliament]."
Following his arrest in 2017, the extremist Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz voiced his support for the Israeli occupation court. “I hope that the verdict in his case is as long and severe as possible.”
Speaking during a cabinet session in 2017, then-ministers Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Katz and Yoav Galant demanded that Salah be placed under administrative detention. Katz also called upon the Israeli authorities to deport Sheikh Salah to Lebanon or Gaza.
In 2010, he was on board the Mavi Marmara in the Freedom Flotilla, which was aiming to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. A foreign journalist revealed in an article that part of the Israeli plan in attacking Mavi Marmara was to assassinate Sheikh Salah.
Despite the Israeli endless attacks on Sheikh Salah, he said in different occasions that he is determined to continue his defense for Al-Aqsa Mosque "whatsoever the cost will be."