BBC News

Senior Jerusalem Islamic cleric questioned over clashes

image captionSheikh Mohammad Hussein's detention was condemned by Palestinian officials

Israeli police briefly detained Jerusalem's most senior Islamic cleric, following clashes between Muslim and Jewish worshippers on Tuesday.

Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was arrested in connection with a "disturbance" outside the Old City's al-Aqsa Mosque.

He was released without charge after six hours of questioning.

The compound where the mosque lies is revered by Muslims and Jews and is a frequent flashpoint for violence.

It is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

During Tuesday's clashes, Muslim worshippers are reported to have thrown chairs at Jewish visitors to the compound.

Muslims regard visits by Jews to the mosque compound as provocative. Jews can go to the compound but are not allowed to pray there or perform religious ceremonies. Those who are seen to break the rules can be expelled by police.

"The mufti was investigated for six hours over what happened at Temple Mount yesterday and over his recent declarations about the situation there," Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Tuesday's violence coincided with Israel's celebration of Jerusalem Day, which marks the anniversary of its capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the war, a move not recognised by the international community.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had called for Sheikh Hussein's "immediate release", calling his arrest "a flagrant challenge to the freedom of worship".

The Jordanian parliament voted for a non-binding resolution demanding the expulsion of Israel's ambassador in response to the arrest.

More on this story

  • Clashes over hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners