World Bulletin/News Desk
Israel's police said Monday that it had closed down tthree NGOs affiliated with the Islamic Movement in northern Israel for defending Al-Aqsa Mosque against Jewish settlers.
Israel's Shin Bet security service said it shut down the three organisations in the northern town of Nazareth that had been set up last year by the Islamic Movement, which has a following among the Palestinians in Israel.
The groups - Al Aqsa Champions, Muslim Women for Al Aqsa and Al Fajr Foundation for Culture and Literature - paid activists to use "verbal and even physical violence" against visitors to the Jerusalem shrine with the goal of "agitating and stirring up emotions," the Shin Bet said.
Israeli police said in a statement that the closure of the institutions was based on an order by Israel's Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel radio reported.
Israel's Internal Security Agency, meanwhile, claimed that a security assessment shown that the two institutions had been suspected of funding the activities of both the Islamic Movement in northern Israel and Hamas.
The agency added in a statement that the two NGOs had allocated some money to fund the activities of the two movements, which according to it, violated Israeli law.
It said that the two institutions paid salaries of people who go to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem every day.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon outlawed all three groups last month. The ministry has the authority to outlaw organisations that it deems a threat to national security. The Shin Bet implemented the ministry's ban.
The Islamic Movement denied wrongdoing in a statement that related to two of the groups.
Al Aqsa Champions is "a media organisation (that is) professional and balanced and focuses only on events inside the mosque" and Muslim Women for Al Aqsa "organises study for women inside the mosque," the Islamic Movement said in a statement.
Police said that offices of the two NGOs had been raided by security forces, where computers and documents related to their accounts had been seized.
According to the statement, some officials of the two institutions had also been detained.
Muslim Women for Al-Aqsa, one of the raided NGOs, said in a statement that a large number of Israeli policemen had raided its office in Nazareth and confiscated equipment.
According to the statement, female workers had been detained by Israeli forces during the raid.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.
Jordan, whose religious authorities have run the al Aqsa compound since before the 1967 war, withdrew its ambassador from Israel in November in protest at the situation at the site, saying the countries' two-decade-old peace accord was at risk.
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