Situation Report: Israel reportedly arrests deputy head of Islamic Movement in Israel

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Palestinian media outlets have reported that Israeli police have arrested the deputy head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a Muslim Brotherhood-linked movement of Arab Israelis with close ties to Hamas.

Palestinian social media accounts allegedly show Arab Israelis throwing things at Israeli police allegedly in response to the arrest. Police in return can be seen deploying tear gas.

Sheikh Kamal Al-Khatib, the vice-president of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was allegedly arrested by Israeli security at his home in Kafr Kanna, a largely Arab town in Galilee, on March 14, following days of rioting by Arab Israelis across the country.

Israeli intelligence has long believed that the Islamic Movement in Israel serves as a conduit for Hamas in orchestrating violent rioting on the Temple Mount. In 2014, a Hamas operative told the Israeli Shin Bet that Hamas used the Islamic Movement to transfer funds, pay operatives on the holy site.

In 2013 the Islamic Movement in Israel’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested for inciting violence on the Temple Mount and supporting attacks on Israeli police. He had previously been arrested for participating in the 2010 Gaza Flotilla. Salah’s hometown of Umm al-Fahm remains a hotbed of Islamist activism.

Al-Khatib has been Salah’s deputy, largely leading the group since Salah’s arrest. In 2018 Al-Khatib’s family alleged that he was being investigated by Israeli police for communications with Hamas.

The Islamic Movement in Israel is divided into two factions, Northern and Southern. While there are minimal ideological differences, the Northern branch is rejectionist, and has been banned in Israel since 2015 due to ties to Hamas, while the Southern branch does participate Israeli politics.

Al-Khatib has a long history of inflammatory statements, including threatening to “eliminate Jews” in 2015, and calling for Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a global Islamic state.

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